You might think that drinking alcohol will make you feel happy and relaxed. You might be right - alcohol may temporarily well increase your confidence and lower your inhibitions.
The down side to this is that it can also lead to you taking unnecessary risks. It also clouds your judgment and makes it harder for you to make good decisions.
You or your friends can quickly find yourselves in situations you didn’t expect and end up doing things you might regret. Decide for yourself what you want to do and how you want to do it. Don’t let alcohol decide for you.
Drinking alcohol may make you more likely to:
- take risks – injure yourself by climbing, for example
- lose your temper – you may end up arguing or fighting
- encounter violence or become violent
- pay less attention and have an accident
Alcohol and your health
Drinking alcohol is especially harmful if you're under 15. It can cause health problems, and even cause lasting damage to the brain if you’re a teenager and regularly drink a lot.
Drinking alcohol as a teenager can also lead to longer-term health issues like:
- liver failure
- heart disease
- cancer of the mouth and throat
- mental health problems
As well as the health risks, drinking too much alcohol at any age can have negative effects on your physical appearance. It can make you put on weight (as most alcoholic drinks are full of calories), dry out your skin and cause spots, and reduce your fitness levels.
Alcohol and unsafe sex
Drinking makes you more likely to be careless when it comes to sex so you may run the risk of not using protection. Whatever happens, stay safe so you can avoid Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).
If you decide to drink:
The Government's unit guidelines state that there’s no safe level of alcohol consumption. Unit guidelines are the same for men and women, and both are advised not to drink more than 14 units per week. It’s also recommended not to ‘save up’ your 14 units, and instead to spread them evenly across the week so you have regular drink-free days.
If you are pregnant, you should not drink alcohol at all.
If you have an Android phone, iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, you can download an NHS Drinks Tracker app. The app makes it easier for you to calculate the alcohol units in your drinks.
Some tips for staying in control when drinking:
- make sure you're with a responsible adult
- alternate soft drinks or water with alcoholic drinks
- drink half pints or small glasses of wine (125ml rather than a standard 175ml glass)eat something first, the alcohol will enter your bloodstream more slowly because the food helps to soak it up
- decide how much you want to drink and when you're going to stop
- tell your parents, carers and friends where you're going before you go out
- have a number for a trusted cab company with you before you go out
Deciding not to drink
As general health and fitness becomes more popular both in Wirral and the UK, more young people are deciding not to drink, even if they are over 18. The choice is up to you.
If you're out with friends and they're drinking, you might feel pressured to join in. If you don't want to, then don't. Stand your ground and don't let friends try and convince you. Often it can be really empowering to say no, and people will respect you for it if you stand strong in your decision. You might also find that others feel the same as you after all.
Looking after a drunk friend
Some of your friends may end up drinking too much. Don't be afraid to step in if you think one of them has overdone it. They might be slurring their words, talking loudly, getting aggressive or uncontrollable, or being unsteady on their feet.
If they've had too much, here are some things that you can do to help:
- suggest that they stop drinking
- give them small sips of water (if they aren't vomiting)
- help them to get home and see them safely inside
- seek help from a responsible adult you trust
If you're worried about them, especially if they're unconscious and you can't wake them, call an ambulance immediately on 999.
If someone is unconscious or unresponsive, watch this video to show you what to do. It could save their life!
Alcohol and the law
It’s not illegal to drink alcohol at home if you're under 18, but it's healthier if you don't. If you do want to drink, it’s best to only do it with a parent or another responsible adult.
Buying and ordering alcohol
If you are under 18:
- it is illegal to try and buy alcohol at a bar or at any shop
- it is against the law for anyone to try and buy it for you
You are allowed to go into family areas of a pub from the age of five, but only if they have a special 'children's certificate'. Once you reach 14, you're allowed to go anywhere in a pub, but you won't be able to buy any alcohol.
16 and 17 year olds can order and drink beer, wine or cider with a meal at a restaurant or pub where food is served. They can only do this if there is an adult with you.
The police can stop people under 18 if they think they may be carrying alcohol. If you are stopped and you're carrying alcohol, the police can confiscate it. It's also an offence to be regularly found in possession of alcohol if you are under 18.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal and very dangerous. It puts you as a driver, any other passengers in your car, other drivers and pedestrians in danger of serious injury.
If you are stopped by the police and found to be driving with too much alcohol in your body, you:
- will lose your driving licence for at least 12 months
- will get a criminal record
- will be given a fine of up to £5,000
- may face a prison sentence of six months
Help with alcohol problems
If you or someone you know needs help with alcohol problems, there is lots of support available:
- The Drinkaware website has loads of facts and support around alcohol.
- Al-Anon provides support and advice to those who are affected by someone else’s drinking.
- FRANK - You can get confidential advice by calling the ‘Talk to FRANK’ helpline on 0800 77 66 00 seven days a week. Calls are free and they won't show up on your phone bill, but you may be charged if you use a mobile.