Alcohol is seen by lots of people in the UK as a normal part of life.  However it can cause a lot of problems for people who drink too much or too often.  Young people tell us that 'everyone' drinks and because of this most young people think its ok.  However alcohol can have very serious effects.   

Alcohol is a depressant drug that will slow you down

When people drink alcohol it gets into the bloodstream and goes to the brain.  It starts to affect how you think and feel, and can lead you to do things you wouldnt normally do and that you might regret.  It slows down your thinking and responses, meaning that you might not be aware of where you are or what you are doing, and that can leave you vulnerable (meaning something bad might happen to you).  It also affects your movements, you get clumsy and might trip or fall and hurt yourself.  Your judgement and memory are affected, which will impact on your decision making.  Alcohol can also make you feel more confident, meaning you're more likely to do things you wouldn't normally do. 

Being drunk isn't an excuse to get away with things; you should always try to think about the consequences of what you are doing.

How much alcohol people drink is measured in units

Most people are confused by units; but it is a way of keeping track of how much alcohol people drink, even when they are drinking different things.

A unit of alcohol is equivalent to;

  • Half a pint of ordinary strength lager or beer
  • 1 small glass of wine (125ml)
  • A 25ml measure spirit (1 shot)

The goverment has set some safe daily limits for adults who want to drink alcohol.  These are :

  • 2-3 Units per day (no more than 14 in any week).

These limits have been set as this is the amount that can be safely consumed without any long term harms being caused.  It is also advised that people should not drink every day, and that pregnant women should not drink any alcohol as this can affect their baby. 

These limits only apply to over 18's.

There are no recommended safe guidlines for drinking alcohol when under 18 years of age.

It is recommended that young people under the age of 15 do not drink alcohol at all because of the effects alcohol can have on how you develop and grow and because of the risks involved.

The risks include:

  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pains
  • Bad skin
  • Long term health risks including liver disease
  • Lack of control
  • Getting in trouble with the police

Drinking alcohol can make you feel happy, relaxed and confident. However, drinking too much too often can cause problems.

  • Accidents are more likely under the influence of alcohol, especially falling over.
  • Drinkers are less likely to practise safer sex; either forgetting or ignoring safer sex messages.
  • Drinking too much in one go can lead to losing consciousness and even death by poisoning or choking on vomit.
  • Drinking alcohol over a long period of time can damage the heart, liver, stomach and brain.
  • Some people can become agressive and there is an increased risk of being involved in fights and trouble with the police.
  • Feelings of regret and worry are common the day after drinking. 

What you can do to keep safe

  • Don't drink on an empty stomach, this can cause damage to your stomach, and it can also make you feel very drunk very quickly. Always make sure you eat something before you drink alcohol.
  • Avoid mixing different types of drink.
  • Never drink alcohol on your own, in case something goes wrong and you need help.
  • Only time will sober you up.  It is not true that coffee, cold showers or fresh air will sober you up.
  • Drink water as well as drinking alcohol and drink a pint of water before going to bed. This will help your body recover and help to stop you feeling dehydrated
  • Sip your drinks, dont gulp them as this will speed up the effects of alcohol.

What if something goes wrong?

Try not to panic!  Drinking is risky, and the way people react to alcohol can change depending on how the feel, where they are etc.  However there are things you can do to look after yourself and your mates:

  • Stick together
  • Tell someone your plans - its important your parents/carers know where you are going, who with and what time you'll be back.  That way if you're not home as planned they know were to start looking. 
  • Keep in touch; if your plans change you need to let someone know.
  • Dont worry about asking for help if someone becomes unwell.  Don't leave a mate to 'sleep it off'; keep them warm and safe, lying on their side, and call a parent or for an ambulance if you're worried. (Try not to worry about getting into trouble, alcohol poisoning can be fatal, so its really important you get help if you need it)