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Alcohol use in youth

Alcohol is a drug. It is psychoactive, which means it affects your brain and how it works, and it is also addictive. It may well be the first drug you come into contact with, at home and when you are out with your friends. It's cheap, easy to get hold of, and legal if you are 18 or older.

We are still learning how much harm alcohol does to our bodies. Knowing the facts about alcohol and how it might affect you can help you make good decisions about whether to drink and, if you do, how much. Experts say if you are younger than 18 the safest option is not to drink alcohol at all. If you do drink alcohol when you are younger than 15 you at greatest risk of some of the harmful things that can happen with alcohol, like:

The best way to avoid the bad things that can happen with alcohol is to put off starting to drink for as long as possible.

If you do drink, keep yourself safe, and make sure you and your friends look out for each other.

If you're worried that you might be drinking too much, it could be a good idea to talk to your doctor about it. Your usual doctor has to keep all information about your medical care private, and is a good person to see because they know you and have your health records. But if you'd prefer to see another doctor, you can see one for free at 298 Youth Health.

Phone and helplines

It may be easier to talk to someone anonymously first, or you may be worried that someone else may have a drinking problem. Try one of these helplines for advice and support:


Freephone 0800‑376-633 (any time) or free txt 234 to speak to a counsellor.

Email any time. Counsellors aim to respond to emails within 24 hours, so if you need help immediately it's better to phone, txt, or use the online chat.

Alcohol Drug Youth Helpline

Freephone 0800‑787‑YTH (0800‑787‑984), 10 am to 10 pm, any day

Free TXT 8681 and a counsellor will txt you back.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Helping your teen develop safe drinking habits

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created March 2016.


See also:

Alcohol & safe drinking

Alcohol poisoning

Page reference: 261181

Review key: HIAIY-53627