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:
- have energy drinks and alcohol at the same time. The ‘buzz’ that the caffeine in energy drinks gives you can hide the effects of alcohol and lead you to drink more.
- binge drink, even if you don’t drink for the rest of the week or month. A heavy drinking session can have serious effects.
How to reduce your risk
You can reduce your risk and have fun at the same time. Take a look at:
- standard drinks — what they are and why counting them is a good idea
- how much alcohol is safe to drink — guidelines to reduce your risk based on expert research
- how you can reduce or quit alcohol — tips on cutting down the amount you drink
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:
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.
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:
- blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of zero to drive on a learner or probationary licence
- BAC under .05 to drive on a full licence
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:
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.