Tools

Consumption and risk measurement tools

What's the real impact of alcohol on your health and wellbeing? Use our Alcohol Consumption Calculator to find out.
Alcohol Consumption Calculator

Calculate with confidence

By inputting your individual consumption metrics, such as the type of alcohol, quantity consumed, and frequency, you can gain an understanding of your alcohol use and whether you should modify your drinking behaviour. Our tool considers various factors, including your weight, age, and sex, to provide an accurate assessment of the impact on your liver, cardiovascular system, and overall health. This awareness can help you make informed decisions and develop responsible drinking habits.
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Understanding Alcohol

You and alcohol

It takes an average adult around an hour to process one unit of alcohol so that there's none left in their bloodstream, although this varies from person to person. And the more you drink, the longer it takes – for instance, six units of alcohol would take the average person six hours to process. So how much is a unit of alcohol? One unit is 10ml (millilitres) or 8g (grams) of pure alcohol. Because alcoholic drinks come in different strengths and sizes, units are a way to tell how strong your drink is, which can also help you to make comparisons. As an example, a pint of average strength beer has about two units in it, while a single measure (25ml) of typical spirits is one unit. Go onto our drinks calculator to empower yourself with information about your alcohol consumption amounts and patterns. Ever tried alcohol-free? Swapping a standard strength beer, wine, gin or other spirits for alcohol-free varieties can help you cut your drinking and improve your health. With so many products on offer in South African shops, it’s never been easier to reduce your intake of alcohol and adopt positive habits like alcohol-free periods.

How to understand units

What 14 units look like

Illustration showing what typical 14 units of alcohol looks like.
Alcohol Effects Graphic

The effects of alcohol on the body

This eye-opening infographic delves into the intricate interplay between alcohol and your body. Discover a visual representation of the detrimental effects of excessive alcohol consumption on various organs and systems. From the liver's resilience to the heart's rhythm, gain a deeper understanding of the importance of moderation for your overall wellbeing. Let this graphic empower you to make informed choices and embrace a healthier lifestyle.
Download this infographic
Glossary

Glossary of alcohol harm / harm reduction terms

Acronyms

  • ABV - Alcohol by volume is a measure of alcoholic strength. The amount of ethanol (alcohol) in a container is shown as a percentage of the overall volume of the drink. The higher the percentage, the stronger the alcohol.
  • AEC - Alcohol evidence centre
  • ALD - Alcoholic liver disease
  • AUD - Alcohol use disorder
  • BAC - Blood alcohol concentration
  • BRAC - Breath alcohol concentration
  • DBE - Department of Basic Education
  • DOH - Department of Health
  • DSD - Department of Social Development
  • DOT - Department of Transport
  • DUI - Driving under the influence (of alcohol and/or substances)
  • EBAT - Electronic breath alcohol test
  • FARR - Foundation for Alcohol Related Research
  • FAS - Fetal alcohol syndrome
  • FASD - Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
  • GISAH - Global Information System on Alcohol and Health (WHO)
  • JMPD - Johannesburg Metro Police Department
  • NCD - Non-communicable disease
  • NICRO - National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders
  • RTMC - Road Traffic Management Corporation
  • SANCA - South African National Council On Alcoholism And Drug Dependence
  • WHO SAFER - World Health Organization 2018 global initiative that addresses alcohol harms through:Strengthen restrictions on alcohol availabilityAdvance and enforce drink driving counter measuresFacilitate access to screening, brief interventions and treatmentEnforce bans/restrictions on alcohol advertising, sponsorship & promotionRaise prices on alcohol through excise taxes and pricing policies

Active vs passive harm reduction education measures

Active: parental education, school prevention programmes, integration of harmful use of alcohol in the curricula of primary and secondary schools, mass media and social marketing campaigns.

Passive: Warning labels

Alcoholic beverage

A liquid that contains ethanol (ethyl alcohol, commonly called “alcohol”) and is intended for drinking. In most countries with a legal definition of “alcoholic beverage” a threshold for content of ethanol by volume in a beverage is set at ≥ 0.5% or 1.0%. The predominant categories of alcoholic beverages are beers, wines and spirits.

Alcohol dependence

A chronic medical condition that typically includes a current or past history of excessive drinking, a strong craving for alcohol, continued use despite repeated problems with drinking, and an inability to control alcohol consumption.

Alcohol limit in relation to driving

Varies between 0 and 0.8 g/l of blood across the world; South African limit is 0.5 g/l

Alcohol poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is caused by drinking large quantities of alcohol in a short period of time. Very high levels of alcohol in the body can shutdown critical areas of the brain that control breathing, heart rate, and body temperature, resulting in death.

Alcohol-related harm

Harmful outcomes associated with alcohol use including, but not limited to, alcohol attributable hospitalisations, emergency department visits and mortality, diseases and disorders entirely attributable to alcohol, drunk driving and alcohol-related interpersonal violence and self-harm.

Aware.org pillars

#NO to U18 is Aware.org’s flagship programme focused on eradicating drinking alcohol by people younger than 18. Aware.org supports implementing partners across South Africa to implement school-based programmes that encompass recreational opportunities and build skills and confidence.

Road safety is Aware.org’s programme that entails partnering with road safety and alcohol rehabilitation agencies to advance alcohol testing at roadblocks and data capturing in real-time. This strengthens evidence collected during roadblocks, so it is sufficiently robust to be admissible in court. In turn this improves the rate of convictions and referrals for rehabilitation, making it less likely for repeat offences.

Sober pregnancies is Aware.org programme delivered in partnership with Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR) to empower and enable pregnant women, health professionals and other selected community members to prevent alcohol consumption by expectant mothers and provide psychosocial and medical care as needed.

Binge

Heavy episodic drinking

Harmful alcohol use

Drinking that causes detrimental health and social consequences for the drinker, the people around the drinker and society at large, as well as patterns of drinking that are associated with increased risk of adverse health outcomes

Hazardous alcohol use

Pattern of alcohol use that appreciably increases the risk of harmful physical or mental health consequences to the user or to others to an extent that warrants attention and advice from health professionals.

Heavy alcohol consumption

High-risk drinking pattern that exceeds a specified daily amount (e. three drinks a day) or quantity per occasion (e. five drinks on an occasion, at least once a week) In contrast, low-risk drinking is defined as having no more than two drinks a day five days a week.

Heavy episodic drinking (HED)

60 or more grams of pure alcohol on at least one occasion at least once per month.

Illegally produced alcohol

Alcoholic beverages not produced or distributed according to law or not authorised by law. Consumption of illicitly or informally produced alcohol could have additional negative health consequences due to a higher ethanol content and potential contamination with toxic substances, such as methanol.

Informally produced alcohol

Alcoholic beverages produced at home or locally by fermentation and distillation of fruits, grains, vegetables etc, often within the context of local cultural practices and traditions. Consumption of illicitly or informally produced alcohol could have additional negative health consequences due to a higher ethanol content and potential contamination with toxic substances, such as methanol.

Main mechanisms of health and social harms of drinking alcohol

  • Toxic effects of alcohol on diverse organs and tissues in the consumer’s body (resulting, for instance, in liver disease, heart disease or cancer)
  • Development of alcohol dependence whereby the drinker’s self-control over his or her drinking is impaired, often involving alcohol-induced mental disorders such as depression or psychoses
  • Intoxication – the psychoactive effects of alcohol in the hours after drinking

Risk for harmful use of alcohol

The degree of risk varies with age, sex and other biological characteristics of the consumer as well as with the setting and context in which the drinking takes place.

Toxic / Intoxicating

Material that contains or is poisonous especially when capable of causing serious debilitation or death.

Total alcohol per capita consumption

Estimated total (recorded + unrecorded) alcohol per person (aged 15 years and older) consumed in a calendar year in litres of pure alcohol.

Unit of alcohol

One unit is 10ml (millilitres) or 8g (grams) of pure alcohol. Because alcoholic drinks come in different strengths and sizes, units are a way to tell how strong a drink is, which can help people to make comparisons and decisions about their alcohol intake.

Resources

ABV
Alcohol by volume is a measure of alcoholic strength. The amount of ethanol (alcohol) in a container is shown as a percentage of the overall volume of the drink. The higher the percentage, the stronger the alcohol.
AEC
Alcohol evidence centre
ALD
Alcoholic liver disease
AUD
Alcohol use disorder
BAC
Blood alcohol concentration
BrAC
Breath alcohol concentration
DBE
Department of Basic Education
DOH
Department of Health
DSD
Department of Social Development
DOT
Department of Transport
DUI
Driving under the influence (of alcohol and/or substances)
eBAT
Electronic breath alcohol test
FARR
Foundation for Alcohol Related Research
FAS
Fetal alcohol syndrome
FASD
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
GISAH
Global Information System on Alcohol and Health (WHO)
JMPD
Johannesburg Metro Police Department
NCD
Non-communicable disease
NICRO
National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders
RTMC
Road Traffic Management Corporation
SANCA
South African National Council On Alcoholism And Drug Dependence
WHO SAFER
World Health Organization 2018 global initiative that addresses alcohol harms through:
Strengthen restrictions on alcohol availability
Advance and enforce drink driving counter measures
Facilitate access to screening, brief interventions and treatment
Enforce bans/restrictions on alcohol advertising, sponsorship & promotion
Raise prices on alcohol through excise taxes and pricing policies
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