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Drinking alcohol and getting drunk affects the way you think and feel. It is popular because it makes people feel relaxed. It can also be dangerous and harmful so it's important to know the facts.

What can alcohol do to you?

Image of a girl drinking alcoholAlcohol can have these effects:

  • It slows down your body and makes accidents more likely to happen.
  • You might become violent when drunk.
  • It can make you feel invincible which could lead to making bad decisions.
  • It can dull your sense of awareness.
  • People may pass out, choke on their own sick, overdose and even die.
  • Being drunk makes you vulnerable and someone could take advantage of you more easily.
  • Regular, heavy use can lead to alcoholism. People then feel they have to drink all the time to avoid feeling ill.
  • Regular, heavy alcohol use can damage your liver, heart, stomach and brain.

Worried about your parents or carers drinking too much? Visit our page on parents and alcohol for more information.

When can I start drinking alcohol?

The law can be complicated about alcohol so it is worth knowing what you can and can't do. The general laws are:

Age 5 and up
You may drink alcohol at home with adult supervision.

Age 14
You can go to a pub which has a children's certificate, but you can't buy or drink alcohol.

Age 16
You can drink wine, beer or cider with a meal in a restaurant.

Age 18
You can buy alcohol but remember it is against the law to buy alcohol for anyone under the age of 18. You could also be asked to show your ID even you are 18 or over. This is known as the 'Challenge 25' scheme.

  • I started drinking but now I can't stop, what can I do?

    Like any other drug, there is always a risk of getting addicted to alcohol if you drink a lot. If you feel like you can't stop drinking, this can be very worrying. Admitting that you have a problem is the first step to getting better. Talking about it will also help you work through the problem and tackle the cause of your drinking.

    If you are worried or have questions about alcohol, you can talk to us. Our counsellors are here to listen and support you. 

  • My friends are pressuring me to drink, what can I do?

    It can be hard to say 'no' to your friends, especially when they are all joining in. If they are trying to get you to do something that you don't want to do, then this could make you feel scared and alone. Becoming more assertive is a way you can say how you really feel without being mean or pushy. Read more about peer pressure and how you can stop it.

  • I drink to forget my problems, how can I get help?

    Alcohol can make you feel happy and help to you forget some things for a short while. Often, you end up feeling worse afterwards and as if your problems are spinning out of control. It's important to think about what is making you drink so much and how you want to feel.

    There are different ways to manage how much you drink. You could try:

    - finding new hobbies or interests to distract you from drinking
    - avoiding places or situations where there will be alcohol
    - keeping a diary or notes about when you drink - you can then see what makes you feel better or worse and find out more about what triggers you to drink
    - setting a limit on how much you will drink - if you are with friends, tell them your limit so they will know not to encourage you to drink more
    - setting goals to see how long you can go without drinking and reward yourself with something nice (not alcohol)

    There are different ways to cope with problems. You could try:

    - being honest with yourself about what's going on in your life - this can be a first step to getting help and figuring out what's making you want to drink
    - talking to someone who you trust or asking an adult for help
    - thinking of what is important to you and how you'd like things to change
    - talking to a ChildLine counsellor who can support you with what you're going through and help you find ways to cope
    - talking to other people on the message boards who might have similar problems.

  • I drink to give me more confidence, how can I feel confident without drinking?

    A lot of young people tell ChildLine they get drunk when they are out with friends because it gives them confidence. Many people feel like they have to impress friends or fit in with others who are drinking.

    Another reason for drinking is to feel more confident when flirting or when doing sexual things. If you feel like you can only do certain things when you're drunk this can be worrying, especially if it makes it you feel low when you're sober.

    It's important to be yourself. Find ways to help you feel more confident.

  • How do I know if I have a drinking problem?

    Alcohol affects everyone differently. If you're drinking too much or feel like you can't cope without alcohol, you might have a problem. You could also have a drinking problem if you depend on alcohol to relax or to face certain situations.

    If you have a drinking problem, you might:

    - worry about when you'll have alcohol next
    - find it hard to stop drinking once you've started
    - often regret or forget things you said or did while you were drunk
    - find it hard to remember how much you've had to drink in one day
    - think about alcohol a lot, for example, at school or at the cinema
    - plan your social life around alcohol by making sure you can drink where you're going, for example, a friend's house or a park.

    Alcohol can have a big impact on your behaviour and how you treat other people.
    If you feel like you're a different person when you're drunk, you might want to think about what it is about alcohol that you like and how it is for you when you're not drinking. You don't have to deal with things on your own. You can contact a Childline counsellor for help and support.

  • My friend has been drinking and needs to sober up, what can I do to help?

    If someone is drunk, they could be in danger of hurting themselves or another person. They could also be at risk of being abused or being involved in something that they wouldn't normally do.

    You could try to help them by:

    telling someone you trust that they are drunk and need help
    - trying to get them to sit up, this can reduce the chance of them choking on vomit
    - giving them foods that will hydrate them and give them energy such as bananas or egg on toast - if they are able to eat
    - taking them to a public place if you are out somewhere by yourselves, this will lower the chance of risks.

    If someone passes out after drinking too much, you should:

    - lay them on their side with their head turned to the side, this is known as the recovery position
    - check that they are breathing and that their mouth is open
    - take off any tight clothes that might make it hard for them to breathe.

    If you think someone is in serious danger, you can dial 999 to get help from the police or an ambulance. You can also call ChildLine at any time for support.

  • I think my friend has a drinking problem, how can I help them?

    If you're worried about how much a friend is drinking, you could let them know how you feel. It may be that they don't realise they have a drinking problem. If they don't want to talk to you, suggest they talk to someone else who they trust about what is happening.

    If you're worried a friend has drank a lot of alcohol, it's important to tell a trusted adult so they can make sure that they are safe. When people are drunk, they are less likely to think about their own safety and might do things that they wouldn't do if they were sober. For example, it's important to not let them wander off on their own or drive a car.

    If you're worried that your friend might be in danger or is at risk of harming others, dial 999 to alert a police officer to help keep them safe. Read more about helping a friend.

    You could also phone Drinkline on 0300 123 1110 for advice if you're worried about someone else's drinking.

  • What is binge drinking?

    Binge drinking is when you drink a lot of alcohol in one go or in a short space of time to get drunk quickly. A lot of people binge drink to forget problems, to fit in with friends, for fun on a night out or to feel relaxed. When you binge drink, you are more likely to be sick or vomit, lose control or pass out. In extreme situations you can choke on your vomit, stop breathing or die from alcohol poisoning.

    If someone is drunk, they can't think clearly and are more at risk of making decisions they'll regret. For example, getting into a fight or doing sexual things they wouldn't usually feel comfortable with.

    If you binge drink or are worried about someone else's drinking, you can contact ChildLine for confidential advice and support.

    You should call 999 for urgent help if you or someone else chokes on vomit, can't breathe properly, turns blue or has a fit or seizure.

Other sites that can help

Help and support for teenage relatives and friends of alcoholics.

Information and advice about alcohol.

Advice about alcohol and stories from young people about their experiences.
Talk to Frank - Alcohol

A teetotaller is someone who doesn’t drink alcohol. Find out more and see which famous people are teetotallers.
TheSite - Being teetotal

Drinking too much?

Or do you know someone who is? Post a message and get support from the ChildLine community.

Alcohol, smoking and drugs message board

Online chat

Chat to a ChildLine counsellor online in a 1-2-1 session any time you want. Sign up to start talking.

Online chat

How did this help?

How did this information about alcohol help you?



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