Alcohol and Young People

You may feel it’s unfair that your age group has the reputation for getting drunk and causing trouble, But this isn’t true – the majority of young people go out and socialise without getting drunk. But the truth is that if you get drunk or lose control you are more likely to be a victim of crime, go home with a stranger or embarrass yourself and your friends. It’s important that you know what the risks are, how to drink sensible, and what to do if things go wrong.


How much is too much?

The sensible drinking guidelines for adults (over 18 years old) recommend that men drink no more than 3-4 units a day and that women drink no more than 2-3 units a day and that everyone should have at least two days every week when they drink no alcohol.

As these guidelines are for adults, if young people choose to drink alcohol they should never exceed the guidelines for adults.

The UK Chief Medical Officer has reviewed all the evidence that is available about children and young people drinking alcohol and he recommends that:

An alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option. However if children drink alcohol, it should not be until at least the age of 15 years.

  • If young people aged 15 to 17 years consume alcohol it should always be with the guidance of a parent or care or in a supervised environment.
  • Young people should be aware that drinking, even at the age of 15 or older, can be hazardous to health and that not drinking alcohol is the healthiest option.
  • If 15 to 17 year olds do drink alcohol they should do so infrequently and certainly on no more than one day a week.

Know the Law

It is important that young people and adults alike know the facts about the laws surrounding alcohol in Scotland.

Getting in?
It is at the managements discretion to let under 18s – or in fact anyone at all – into a pub, but all premises should have a notice at the entrance clearly stating their policy in relation to children and young people.

Getting served?
If you are under 18, it is illegal for you to buy or consume alcohol in licensed premises (this includes any shop, supermarket, off license, bar, club or restaurant and buying online). The only exception is for 16 or 17 year olds who are allowed to drink beer, wine, cider or perry when supplied with food and in the company of an adult.

Challenge 25:
If you look like you are under the age of 25 years old and you try and buy alcohol in a shop, bar or restaurant they must ask you for proof of age. If you are unable to provide proof then you will not be sold alcohol.

The only acceptable forms of ID are a passport, driving licence or identity card with the PASS logo (Visit the Young Scot website to find out more about getting an identity card)

Police have the powers to confiscate alcohol from under 18s in public places and from anyone in alcohol-free zones.

Buying alcohol for those under 18:
Police have the power to charge those over 18 who knowingly buy alcohol for anyone under the legal drinking age (agent sales). It is important that older friends and family know that they could be fined up to £5,000 and be sentenced for up to 3 months in jail for supplying alcohol irresponsibly.

Drinking and driving:
It’s against the law to drive with more than 80mg (milligrams) alcohol per 100ml (millilitres) of blood. If you break the law you face a fine up to £5000, six months in prison and having your license taken away for at least a year. Causing death through drink-driving can result in a maximum prison sentence of 14 years and a two-year driving ban.


Peer Pressure

It’s sometimes very hard to resist your friends’ encouragement to have another drink, or not to feel like a bore if you say no or move onto a soft drinks. You may also think you want your money’s worth if you have all chipped into buying drink or it’s your friends turn to buy.



  • Try and avoid big rounds of drinks. You’ll be out of pocket and it could encourage you to drink too much.
  • Choose drinks that are lower in alcohol like a single spirit with a long mixer, a low or alcohol free beer – who can tell the difference?
  • Offer to be the designated driver for the evening – it’ll save money and you’ll be popular with your friends if you get them home safely.

If it all goes wrong

Drinking very large amounts of alcohol in one session can lead to acute alcohol poisoning which in turn can result in unconsciousness, a coma or even death.

If it all goes wrong, it’s essential to get emergenct help…

If someone loses consciousness after drinking too much, here’s what to do:

  • Keep them on their side with their head turned to the side (the recovery position)
  • Make sure they’re breathing and their mouth and airways are clearIf they stop breathing, start chest compressions until they start to cough or move purposefully
  • Loosen any tight clothing that might be restricting their breathing
  • Keep them warm (but not too hot) with coats or blankets
  • Call an ambulance but don’t leave them… if you can’t make the call, ask someone reliable to call the ambulance

If someone vomits you should:

  • Try to keep them sitting up
  • If they must lie down, make sure they are in the recovery position and that their mouth and airway are clear
  • If they begin to choke, get help immediately
  • Don’t leave them even if you can’t bear the sight or smell of someone vomiting. Alcohol poisoning is extremely dangerous. It can lead to a coma and in extreme cases, death. The amount of alcohol it takes to cause alcohol poisoning depends on many factors, including size, weight, age and so on. Teenagers and inexperienced drinkers are particularly vulnerable.

Useful Links

  • Choices for Life - Your life. Your choices. Explore and find the info and facts you want to know about drugs, alcohol, tobacco and online safety so you can make your own choices for life.
  • Get the Low Down - The lowdown is your guide to teenage health. Find out more about the mind, body, relationships and sex
  • Young Scot - Scottish Youth information for 11 – 26 year olds
  • Young Booze Busters - Greater Easterhouse Alcohol Awareness Project

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