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HealthInfo Canterbury

Alcohol use in teens & young adults

Alcohol is a powerful, addictive drug. It may well be the first drug you come into contact with, either at home or when you are out with your friends. Access to alcohol is easy, and it's cheap and legal if you are 18 or older.

People may drink alcohol for a few different reasons. Maybe their friends are drinking it, they want to prove they're grown up, or they just want to push the boundaries. Sometimes people think drinking alcohol might solve problems with family, friends or themselves.

Drinking alcohol is associated with a wide range of health problems. Alcohol affects the brain and how it works, and the effects on a teenager's developing brain are different than on an adult brain. It can affect your long-term thinking and memory. You may also be more likely to get addicted to alcohol.

Knowing the facts about alcohol can help you make good decisions about whether to drink and, if you do, how much. Experts say if you are younger than 18 it's safest not to drink it. If you drink alcohol when you are younger than 15 you're at greatest risk of some of the harmful things that can happen with alcohol.

Drinking when you're a teenager increases your risk of:

The best way to avoid the bad things that can happen with alcohol is not to drink it at all. If you do decide to drink, it's important to know how to keep yourself safe, and make sure you and your friends look out for each other.

Phone and helplines

If they prefer to talk to someone anonymously, or you are worried that someone else may have a drinking problem, try one of these helplines for advice and support:

Youthline Alcohol Drug Youth Helpline

Youthline is an organisation that works with young people, providing a number of services.

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

You can also chat online using the webchat between 10 am and 10 pm, 7 days a week.

Email any time. Counsellors aim to respond to emails within 24 hours.

Alcohol Drug Youth Helpline

The Youth Helpline has dedicated people experienced in working through issues with young people. They offer free, confidential support and guidance.

Freephone 0800‑787‑YTH (0800‑787‑984), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Free TXT 8681 and a counsellor will txt you back for a confidential conversation

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

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

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed January 2021.


See also:

Alcohol & reducing your risks from drinking

Alcohol poisoning

Page reference: 53627

Review key: HIAIY-53627