Hazardous drinking of alcohol is defined as a pattern of drinking which brings about the risk of physical or psychological harm. Harmful drinking is a subset of hazardous drinking and is described as a pattern of drinking that is likely to cause physical and psychological harm.  Consumption of alcohol above the recommended limits (21 units per week for males and 14 units per week for females) is known to be harmful to health. Nationally over the last decade there are indications that there has been an increase in adverse health outcomes associated with alcohol.

A local telephone survey in 2009 found that about 30% of men drank more than the recommended limit. Overall, Cambridgeshire as a county compares well to the national average on statistics for alcohol misuse and harm, but Cambridge City is above the national average for a number of indicators including hospital admissions specifically caused by alcohol, aspects of alcohol related crime, and binge drinking.