Drinking alcohol is a risk to health. The government and NHS recommend anyone drinking should stay within safer limits. For those aged 18+, this is no more than 2-3 units per day, with no more than 14 units in a week. 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.
You should not drink if you are:
- Driving - this is against the law
- Pregnant, or think you might be pregnant
- If you are working or studying
Whenever anyone drinks alcohol there is a risk of harm. This includes harm to your health, but also to your safety and relationships.
Stay safe when drinking:
- Always know how you're getting home
- Don't get bullied into drinking more than you want to.
- Drink in safe places with people you trust.
- Don't drive or accept lifts from strangers
Experience: I got pregnant while drunk I was shocked to find out I was pregnant as I didn't have a steady boyfriend. I had sex after a drunken party and went into a kind of denial. I had 11 pregnancy tests altogether trying to convince myself that they were faulty and that it wasn’t really happening. When I told my mum she was so upset. I felt like I had let everyone down. Anon, 17, Oxford.
What the law says:
It is illegal to sell anyone under 18 alcoholic drinks. It is illegal to buy anyone under 18 alcoholic drinks in most situations. 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. Bars or shops which serve or sell alcohol to children under 18 can be fined or closed.
Anyone drinking alcohol regularly is at risk of harm to health and dependence. The effects of drinking too much alcohol are severe. They include:
- Damage to your liver (including liver disease)
- Heart failure
- Damage to the brain and nervous system.
Alcohol dependence is also a risk. Alcohol is addictive. People who become addicted to alcohol are at risk of bad health outcomes, but also problems with jobs, money, and the law. Anyone can suffer problems with alcohol.
You may be more at risk if:
- One or more people in your family or household are misusing alcohol
- You have a low alcohol response ("can handle your drink")
- Your friends drink a lot
Help with drinking too much
Asking for help early reduces harm from drinking. There are lots of ways to get support, including:
- Asking your doctor
- Speaking with your School Health Nurse
- Reaching out to somebody from the Aquarius Service
- Joining support groups like Alateen (for family and friends of alcoholics)
- Calling the NACOA helpline on 0800 358 3456
Families where someone is misusing substances are at higher risk of abuse, domestic violence and family breakdown. Support is available for families in need, to help them solve problems together.
This short video from Drinkaware offers more information on units of alcohol.