Alcohol & Other Drugs

Alcohol and Other Drugs Information, Tools and Resources

Many people use alcohol or other drugs to relax or socialise but using these substances can damage our health and lead to issues in other areas of our lives.

Alcohol is the most widely used drug in NI.  Illegal drug use and the misuse of prescription drugs are also common and combining different drugs and/or mixing them with alcohol can be particularly dangerous.

This page provides tools, information and links to sources of support for anyone wanting to find out more about how to reduce their intake of alcohol or other drugs.


You may not think of Alcohol as a drug

There are many types of drugs, including alcohol, which affect people in different ways. They can be divided up into 4 categories which are:

  • Depressants– slow body down, including our heart rate and our breathing.
  • Stimulants– speed up our heart rate and our breathing.
  • Hallucinogens– induce hallucinations, therefore our perception and vision is altered.
  • Opiates– a drug used to block pain. This puts us in danger as our bodies need pain to survive.

Alcohol is a depressant and its consumption remains an issue of concern in Northern Ireland. Drinking Alcohol can increase your risk of several types of cancer, including liver, bowel, breast, mouth, oesophageal cancer (food pipe) and laryngeal cancer (voice box). Drinking alcohol also increases your risk of mental health problems, liver disease and injury. It is estimated that the misuse of alcohol costs some £900 million to our society each year. When substances are used over time, people can become increasingly reliant on them. The Chief Medical Officer’s Report for NI, 2014, states that almost 1 in 5 of the adult population who drink alcohol consume it at levels above those which are recommended.

What are the Recommended Guidelines?

  • Men & Women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units per week
  • Spread your drinking over 3 days or more if you drink as much as 14 units per week

Not quite sure how many units you, or someone you know is drinking each day? – try this unit calculator test to see if you are within the recommended limits

Unit Calculator


Alcohol Awareness Campaigns

  • Dry January

    Thinking about Dry January?

    Dry January means going alcohol-free for the month of January and most people who give it a try see a whole host of obvious benefits that make a great start to the New Year.  The infographic below shows feedback from those signed up to do Dry January with Alcohol Change UK.

    Research published the British Medical Journal in 2018, found that a month off alcohol:

    • Lowers blood pressure
    • Reduces diabetes risk
    • Lowers cholesterol
    • Reduces levels of cancer-related proteins in the blood.

    And the benefits can last for the rest of the year as Dry January helps people to drink more healthily year-round. How can it be that just a month off has a long-term impact? Being alcohol-free for 31 days shows us that we don’t need alcohol to have fun, to relax, or to socialise. It helps us learn the skills we need to manage our drinking. That’s good news because alcohol is linked with more than 60 health conditions, including liver disease, high blood pressure, depression and seven types of cancer. In fact, alcohol is the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability for people aged 15-49 in the UK. Cutting back on alcohol long-term reduces your risk of developing these conditions.

    Want to take part?

    Alcohol Change have a couple of handy tools to support and motivate you. Download their free “Try Dry” app for Apple or Android or sign up for free coaching emails here.  Visit for more information on Dry January and visit for support and contact details of local services which can help you if you are concerned about your drinking or someone close to you.  The Trust’s BWell website also includes useful information and tools including a unit calculator.

  • Mindful Autumn Drinking

    Our top tips for mindful Autumn Drinking ?

    As more people return to the office and we continue to find our new ‘normal’, we may face new and increased pressures to drink. Here are three tips to share with staff to help them manage their drinking this autumn:

    Try low-alcohol and alcohol-free alternatives. There are lots of great alternatives available in supermarkets, pubs, bars and restaurants nowadays. Stick to alcohol-free drinks alone or alternate between them and alcoholic ones for an easy way to cut down without feeling like you’re missing out.

    Pace yourself. You don’t have to join in with every round or drink at the same speed as others – take your time and enjoy each drink. If you don’t want another alcoholic drink, switch to a soft drink or alcohol-free alternative.

    Make a plan. Decide beforehand how much you want to drink and come up with a tactic to make sure you stick to it. This can really help you cut down and keep a closer eye on your drinking.



  • Alcohol Awareness Month


    Alcohol Awareness Month

    November is Alcohol Awareness Month – a good time to consider your drinking habits.

    Did you know?

    • The NHS now advises that there is no ‘safe’ drinking level.
    • If you drink less than 14 units a week, this is considered low-risk drinking.
    • It’s called “low risk” rather than “safe” because there’s no safe drinking level.
    • The type of illnesses you can develop after 10 to 20 years of regularly drinking more than 14 units a week include:
    • cancers of the mouth, throat and breast
    • stroke
    • heart disease
    • liver disease
    • brain damage
    • damage to the nervous system
    • There’s also evidence that regular drinking at high-risk levels can make your mental health worse.

    The effects of alcohol on your health will depend on how much you drink. The less you drink, the lower the health risks.[1]

    The website is full of information and support including an anonymous alcohol test to help you determine the impact that alcohol may be having on your health and wellbeing.  Click the image below to take the test.  You can also visit B Well Positive Choices Alcohol for information including a unit calculator.


  • Alcohol Awareness Week

Other Drugs

Drugs misuse can be harmful to your health in both the short term and the long term, and can possibly lead to addiction.  You can find out more in this A-Z of drugs.

New Psychoactive Substances

‘New Psychoactive Substances,’ previously referred to as ‘Legal Highs’ are becoming increasingly misused in Northern Ireland. These are chemicals which are not controlled by the 1971 drugs act and mimic the effects of popular controlled drugs. NPS’s can cause serious and often fatal effects such as:

  • Overdose
  • A & E attendance
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Suicide
  • Coma
  • Sudden increase in body temperature and heart rate

If you are concerned about your substance use/ misuse or someone you care about, there are many self help resources and support services to help you get back on track. Some of them are listed below.



Sources of Support: Drug & Alcohol Support Services in Belfast”


Useful Tools

Taken from Drugs and Alcohol

Know how much units are recommended per week – PHA Alcohol Cup Video

Virtual Bar  – drag a typical weeks’ worth of alcohol to see how it stacks up against the guidelines

Is Your Alcohol Putting you at risk? Take the test now

Mocktail Recipes


Do you want to learn more about the health effects of alcohol and how you can have a safer, healthier relationship with it? 

Alcohol Awareness Webinar delivered by Ascert.