Alcohol & safer drinking

Every year, young people drink less alcohol. But for some, drinking heavily and getting drunk is still a risk. Find out how to keep yourself and others safe and healthy.
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Young people on a camping trip

Drugs and Alcohol Safety Smoking

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

If you’re drinking you need to know about all the risks, including things like drugs, consent, safer sex, sexual health and emergency contraception.

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.

Crucial: Adults who supply alcohol to young people may be trying to harm or abuse you, even if they say it is a gift. Find out more about Criminal Exploitation and Child Sexual Exploitation.

Alcohol dependence

Anyone drinking alcohol regularly is at risk of harm to health and dependence. The effects of drinking too much alcohol are severe. They include:

  • Depression
  • 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

Crucial: If you are worried about a family member you can get support from the Aquarius Service.

Help with drinking too much

Asking for help early reduces harm from drinking. There are lots of ways to get support, including:

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.

Find out more

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