Drinking alcohol is a risk to health. The government and NHS recommend anyone drinking should stay within safer limits. For adults, this is no more than 2-3 units per day, with no more than 14 units in a week, with 2-3 days alcohol free. Anyone drinking this is at risk of damaging their health or becoming addicted.
For young people, there is no recommended safe limit.
Instant Expert: Find out how many units and calories there are in any alcoholic drink from Drinkaware.
It is important not drink alcohol at all:
- If you are driving (this is against the law)
- If you are pregnant, or think you might be pregnant (this can damage the health and development of your child)
- If you are working or studying (this is against the rules, and won't help you learn or work)
Whenever anyone drinks alcohol there is a risk of harm. This includes harm to your health, but also to your safety and relationships. This is because alcohol is often part of the story when there are accidents, arguments, domestic violence, assault, drownings, suicides and self harm.
Crucial: Young people are most at risk from accidental alcohol poisoning from drinking too much. This is because young bodies and brains are going through fast changes. This means your body's response to alcohol can change very quickly, and you can suffer harm through drinking too much and too quickly - even if it feels like you have not drunk much at all. Know what to do in an emergency.
What the law says
It is illegal to sell anyone under 18 alcoholic drinks. You can enter a building where drinks are served (for example, to see a band play, or eat a meal) but only as long as the person running the building agrees.
It is illegal to buy anyone under 18 alcoholic drinks unless they are 16+, having a table meal with supervising adults, and drinking beer, wine or cider.
The police can confiscate alcoholic drinks from anyone aged under 18, or anyone over 18 if they think they are going to give the drink to someone under 18. Penalties for supplying alcohol to children can include fines of up to £5,000 for individuals and £20,000 for organisations. In some cases premises can be closed or lose their license. If the drinking is happening on a private property, then the owner of the property and people living or staying there can all get into trouble.
It is against the law for anyone to sell alcohol to anyone who is obviously drunk. This is protect everyone's health and safety.
You can be given a Drinking Banning Order (DBO) if you break the law or cause problems while drinking alcohol. No-one should sell alcohol to someone who has a DBO, and if that person consumes alcohol, they are breaking the law.
Think safe, drink safe
Fewer young people drink heavily nowadays. But alcohol-related harm is still a serious risk for some young people. Every week, over 1000 young people in the UK go to hospital for alcohol-related reasons. Make sure you are not one of them:
- Avoid Alcohol Poisoning Alcohol is a poison. Drink too much, too quickly, and alcohol can poison you, slowing down brain and bodily functions, until you lose consciousness, slip into a coma, and die. NHS Choices has a handy guide to how many units adults can drink before they start running serious risks. Children can be at risk from small amounts.
- Don't take risks Drunk people are at risk from drowning, falls, fights and accidents. Small amounts of alcohol make you careless and clumsy. Large amounts make you to fall over, vomit and lose consciousness (pass out).
- Look out for yourself and your friends When they are drunk, people take stupid risks and may do or say stupid, hurtful or dangerous things. It is easy to have arguments or do stupid things. You may not be able to remember what you did later.
Although many young people drink only a small amount, or not at all, some do drink a lot. These people are harming their health. Young people who need to drink a lot to feel drunk (who have a low alcohol response or who can hold their drink) are particularly at risk of health damage. This is because they consume the most alcohol. But anyone drinking enough get drunk may be risking their safety, learning, work, housing and relationships.