Alcohol and young people

Alcohol is never safe, but you can reduce your risk and have fun at the same time. Read our tips on staying safe when you're out drinking with friends or at schoolies. Find out about the support available for teenagers and young people.

When can you legally drink?

You must be 18 or older to buy alcohol or drink alcohol in a licensed venue.

Did you know? A person who supplies alcohol to people under the age of 18 may be breaking the law. This is called secondary supply. The laws about this are different in each state and territory.

Know the risks

Even if you can legally drink alcohol, it is never completely safe.

It can affect your health, your social life, school, your work, your friends and your family.

Alcohol is especially risky for teenagers and young people. The brain continues to develop until around 25 years of age, making it more sensitive to damage from alcohol. Drinking alcohol can damage your brain and lead to health issues down the track.

Make sure you’re aware of all the effects of alcohol.

Energy drinks and binge drinking

You should also know that it’s risky to:

How to reduce your risk

You can reduce your risk and have fun at the same time. Take a look at:

When you're with friends

It can be hard to go out with your friends and not drink alcohol. When you’re having fun, it can also be hard to keep track of how much you’ve drunk.

Read young people and alcohol for ways you can party more safely.

At schoolies week

If you’re planning to go to schoolies, here are some ideas to help you stay in control:

  • Register with the council — you can register as a school leaver with the local council in the area you’re visiting
  • Be prepared — at all times, make sure you have a charged phone, money and emergency contact details
  • Eat before you drink — eating carbohydrate-rich food like rice and bread will help slow the rate your body absorbs alcohol
  • Be aware — don’t let your drink out of your sight and beware of drink spiking
  • Avoid risky situations — don’t do anything risky like swimming after drinking
  • Let your parents know — where you’re staying, what your plans are, who you’re with, your and your friends’ phone numbers
  • Keep in touch — update your parents every now and then so they know you’re safe

Read more tips on alcohol during schoolies.

Understand why you drink

People drink for different reasons. Many people drink to have fun and socialise. But you may also drink because you:

  • want to fit in with your friends
  • are stressed about exams
  • feel depressed or anxious

It’s important you know that there are other ways to deal with these feelings. Take a look at the Kids Helpline website for advice on things like:

You can also call free and confidential helplines — see the Contacts section below for details.

Drink driving

There is no such thing as safe drink driving.

You need good concentration and coordination and quick reflexes to drive safely. Drinking alcohol affects this. This is why you must have a:

If you’ve been drinking or are planning to, you should:

  • get a lift home with someone who has not been drinking
  • stay with a friend overnight
  • call a taxi
  • call a family member or friend to come and get you — they may be annoyed at the time but they will know it’s more important to get you home safely

Avoid risky situations:

  • don’t drive if you have been drinking
  • don’t get into a friend’s car if they have been drinking


For all alcohol-related health emergencies, call 000 for an ambulance.

If you need support or advice, you can contact:

eheadspace contact

eheadspace is a national online and phone support service for young people between 12 and 25. It covers a wide range of topics and issues affecting mental health. Contact them online or by phone from 9am to 1am AEST, every day.

View contact

Counselling online contact

Contact Counselling online if you have concerns about your own or someone else's drinking or drug use. They provide an online chat service, email support, self help tools, an SMS service and online forum. You can contact them 24 hours a day from anywhere in Australia.

View contact

Kids Helpline contact

Kids Helpline provides a free, private and confidential phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25. The service is available 24 hours a day from anywhere in Australia.

View contact

Last updated: 
8 December 2020

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