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My View: Safe drinking guidance remains true

Published:  18 January, 2007

When the Royal College of Physicians issued guidance in 1987 on safe drinking weekly amounts in units, it was acutely aware - and stated it - that precise figures were hard to come by.

There is huge individual variation in tolerances of our favourite drug determined by our genes but we don't yet know enough to do each person's DNA fingerprinting.

But the guidance remains true 20 years later - that if you

stick below the limits of 21 units a week for men, 14 units

for women (or four and three units a day respectively, with

two alcohol-free days) you are most unlikely to suffer

physical, mental or social harm.

Once a person is drinking over 50 units a week for man, 35 for women harm is likely to occur. And so there is a need for

public information rather than scare stories, mature debate and not hysteria.

At a time when alcohol is used by many as a stress reliever and sedative at the end of a tough day we are surrounded by a culture of availability and advertising. It's fine to enjoy a

drink, but dependence is a real threat when it becomes the

only way to unwind.

Neither I, the Royal College of Physicians nor the alliance of

like-minded health organisations are anti-alcohol.

But as a society we do need to recognise that these beverages, while capable of enhancing the enjoyment of life, are no ordinary commodity.

Professor Ian Gilmore is president of the Royal College of

Physicians and chairman of the new Alcohol Health Alliance