Talk About Alcohol

If you see the news or read the papers, you may think that most young people drink alcohol regularly even though they are under the legal age for buying it. But the statistics tell a different story - most people do not!

In England in 2007, 20% of 11 to 15 year-olds said that they had drunk alcohol in the previous week, (only 2% of 11 year-olds had, rising to 46% of 15 year olds). That means that 80% of 11 -15 year-olds had not drunk alcohol at all that week. In fact 46% of 11 – 15 year olds have never had a whole alcoholic drink.

Only a very small minority drink a lot (14% of 15-16 year olds get drunk regularly). So, choosing not to drink is a good option and one chosen by many young people.


How Alcohol affects you

Alcohol affects the human body in many different ways. There are short-term effects, and changes that take place over a longer time period.

- In the short-term, someone who drinks alcohol will feel more relaxed and less inhibited.

- As they drink more, their judgement is affected -   they may say or do something stupid or out of character. They'll feel wobbly and unco-ordinated, and may have trouble seeing and hearing clearly.


- With more alcohol, the body struggles to cope.

The person may slur their speech, feel confused,  and have trouble standing and walking, which can lead to accidents. As their judgement is affected more, they may say or do something they later  will regret.


- If they've really overdone it

The person may vomit and even lose consciousness. If the body's  important organs are seriously affected, they may never recover.


- In the longer term, regularly drinking too much

  Alcohol can lead to serious health problems, such as cirrhosis or cancer of the liver and other cancers.  The symptoms may not appear until after the damage is done.


In the UK, there are laws to regulate the purchase and consumption of alcohol by young people and adults. The laws are complicated but buying alcohol under 18 is illegal in almost all circumstances.


- Under 5 years old: it is illegal to give alcohol to under 5s, except on medical instruction.


- 5 years old or over: can drink alcohol at home if supervised by an adult. This does not mean parents should give a young child a drink, this would be deemed as irresponsible behaviour, but allows parents to make their own choice as to when, how, or if they should  introduce an occasional sip on a special occasion for example.


- Under 16: With the new licensing law, it is now at the Landlord's discretion as to whether you are allowed anywhere in a pub. You are not allowed to buy or drink alcohol on the premises.

The Chief Medical Officer now recommends that parents shouldn’t consider allowing a child under the age of 15 to drink alcohol at home

- Under 18: Adults are not allowed to buy alcohol on behalf of under 18's – this is called buying by proxy. In the new licensing laws, the only exception is for 16 or 17 year olds who are allowed to drink beer, wine or cider at a meal out with adults (but they may not buy the alcohol themselves) at the landlord’s discretion.

  It is legal for anyone over 5 to drink alcohol. The restrictions apply to purchasing (under 18) and location - on licensed premises or in alcohol exclusion zones.

Police have powers to confiscate alcohol from under 18's drinking in public spaces (e.g. in the street or in parks).

 If you’re under eighteen, you can’t serve alcohol in a bar or licensed premises either.


- At any age: it's illegal to buy alcohol for a person under 18 to drink in a bar. Breaking the law can mean a fine of £1000.


- Drinking and driving: it's against the law for an adult to drive with more than 80mg alcohol per   100ml of their blood.

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