Alcohol and Health

Here you can learn about the harmful effects of alcohol use and how to reduce alcohol-related harm if you drink at all. If you have a drinking problem, this article tells you where to seek help.

Health Risks in Alcohol Use

Evidence shows that alcohol use increases health risks, even drinking low to moderate amount. They are:

  • malnutrition due to its lack of nutritional value (e.g. vitamin B deficiency);
  • overweight because of its high calorie content;
  • digestive system problems, such as oesophagitis, chronic gastritis and gastric ulcers;
  • liver problems, such as hepatitis, cirrhosis and even liver cancer;
  • high blood pressure and heart problems;
  • certain cancers, such as cancers of oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, colorectum and female breast;
  • addiction to alcohol.

Excessive amount of alcohol consumed on a single occasion, known as "binge drinking", can put you at risk of acute intoxication, accidental injury, suicide, unsafe sex, interpersonal violence and assaults.  Each additional drink further increases these risks because increasing alcohol intake progressively impairs your ability to think and make decisions.

Alcohol and Health"Towards 2025: Strategy and Action Plan to Prevent and Control Non-communicable Diseases in Hong Kong" Target 2: Reduce harmful use of alcohol

Drink Driving is a Criminal Offence

Alcohol can be the culprit for traffic accidents and traffic offences because it affects your driving ability. It impairs your judgement of speed and distance, slows down your reaction time, affects coordination of your body’s movements and blurs your vision. It lingers in your body longer than you think.

Besides, drink driving is a serious criminal offence. You should avoid driving after drinks by:

  • using public transport;
  • taking a taxi; or
  • arranging for a non-drinker to drive.

With effect from February 2009, the penalties on drink driving offences have been increased.  Apart from a maximum fine of HK$25,000, 3 years’ imprisonment and 10 driving offence points, offender on the first conviction is liable to be disqualified from driving for a period for not less than 3 months and be mandated to attend a driving improving course.  In addition, the Police have been carrying out random breath tests extensively over the territory to deter and combat drink driving to enhance road safety. 

Drink driving not only affects driver’s own safety but also poses hazards to other road users causing serious casualties.  If you drink, don’t drive! 

More on consequences of drink driving

How to Reduce Harm If You Choose to Drink

Alcohol may be regarded as a ‘social lubricant’, especially in festivity. But in fact many people are having a great time with non-alcoholic beverages (e.g. alcohol-free punches, juices, teas and coffees) as alternatives. However, if you choose to drink alcohol, you need to be aware that

  • Do not drink on an empty stomach to prevent quick absorption.
  • Know your limits and the alcohol content of different kinds of drinks. Choose drinks with lower alcohol content. Reduce alcohol content by adding ice.
  • Take sips rather than gulps to prevent blood alcohol level from rising quickly.
  • Do not get into rounds. Drink alcohol-free beverages in between (such as water, fruit juice or soft drinks).
  • Never drink and drive. Plan your transport home ahead. Use public transport or designate a non-drinking driver. 
Cutting Down Alcohol and its related HarmMen and Drinking - Make Informed Choice

Where to Seek Help

If you find yourself drinking compulsively or becoming more dependent on alcohol, you need to seek help. You can check out for treatment programmes and support services for people with drinking problems from the links below.

“Stay Sober, Stay Free” Alcohol Addiction Treatment Project (available in Chinese only)Alcohol Treatment Service from Tuen Mun Alcohol Problems ClinicSelf-help group from Alcoholic Anonymous
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Last review date: September 2023