What's the harm

Did you know?
Around one in ten 12 to 17-year-olds reported binge drinking in the week before a 2008 survey

Short Term

Alcohol is a drug, and like all drugs, has effects on the person who takes it.

Physical effects

The physical effects of alcohol can include:

  • slurred speech
  • reduced coordination
  • intense mood swings
  • confusion
  • blurred vision
  • poor muscle control
  • nausea and vomiting
  • passing out
  • blackouts
  • headaches and hangovers
  • slower reflexes.

Increased risk of injury and death

Alcohol is also linked with increased risks of injury and even death, because people who are impaired by alcohol:

  • are less able to accurately assess risks to their own safety, and that of others - which can lead to unsafe sex, physically dangerous behaviour and driving or getting in a car with someone who is drunk
  • have lower levels of self-control
  • are less able to identify hazards and dangers
  • can't assess the consequences of their own (or others) actions as well as someone who hasn't been drinking.

Alcohol is also linked with violence and assaults.

Having alcohol in your bloodstream also reduces your physical and hand-eye coordination, and affects your balance. This makes it easier to have accidents and falls that would never happen if you hadn't been drinking.

Very high levels of alcohol intake can also cause death or serious brain damage.

Mental health

Alcohol depresses the central nervous system, and drinking too much can trigger emotional turmoil, especially in young people. Young people also often find themselves deeply regretful or remorseful about decisions made or actions taken while they were drinking. For those with underlying mental health problems, such as depression, alcohol can have even more serious impacts.

Sexual health

Alcohol reduces internal brakes on behaviour, which means that young people who drink may take part in behaviour they would not normally take part in, such as risky sexual activity. Lower awareness of risk may also lead them to expose themselves to pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.

Social wellbeing

Young people who drink heavily are also more likely than their peers to get involved in antisocial or offensive behaviour, which can lead to problems with their friends and peers or contact with the police.