Although the dangers of binge drinking are well known there is still much confusion over how much is too much. Health Reporter Emma Brady looked at how a few quick drinks after work can result in more than a hangover...

Say binge drinking and most people will think of teenagers and 20-something revellers downing alcopops and pints before collapsing outside a bar or club.

Department of Health guidelines define a binge as eight units for a man, six for a woman, in one session.

But defining what one session is can be difficult, so five people aged 24 to 54 kept diaries to monitor their drinking over a week-long period.

Prof James Neuberger, a liver specialist, and Kerry Webb, a clinical psychiatric nurse, both based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital's liver unit in Birmingham, analysed these records.

Overall, they felt two of the five subjects - two journalists, a press officer, a hotelier and a magazine editor - were drinking at " hazardous levels".

While each diary contained at least one binge, the authors believed they had a "healthy" relationship with alcohol until they saw the experts' results.

Prof Neuberger, a professor in hepatology, said drinking was primarily a social activity for our diarists who were largely unaware of the amount they were drinking.

He said: "These diaries generally show a high level of drinking, which in some cases is in danger of putting the individual's health at risk in terms of liver damage and dependency issues.

"I think if everyone kept diaries like this for a week, fortnight, or even a month, they would be surprised how much they actually drink."

One of the diarists, Birmingham Post reporter Helen Gabriel, was shocked by Prof Neuberger's suggestion her drinking could lead to alcohol dependency.

She said: "I am aware that I do drink too much too often, particularly given my size, because it was starting to impact on my health with severe hangovers.

"However, despite the professor's comments, I wouldn't say that I have a problem. I have a lifestyle that most 20-somethings do, who have few responsibilities and lots of fun.

"I go out to have a laugh, rather than on a mission to drink as much as possible, the drink just catches up with me sometimes. That said, I am going to spend next month on the wagon, to give my body a break from booze."

Last month teenager Mark Shields was found dead at his Northumberland home on his 18th birthday, after drinking with friends.

He had drunk three pints of lager, five double whiskies, and three double shots of sweet liqueur Aftershock. A toxicology report revealed Mark had 491mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood - the legal limit is 80mg.

While his death may be rare, drinking at that level is not and it is not difficult to tot up those units during a leisurely dinner.