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You constantly hear in the news about young people binge drinking and making a nuisance of themselves. When you start drinking from a young age, you are probably doing your body more harm than you think.

You might think it's ok - 'I’m only going to have a few drinks with my friends'. But do you realise you are drinking a poison with every sip of alcohol that you take?

You may think it's ok to only drink at the weekends because you’re only doing it once or twice a week so there’s plenty of time for your body to recover. But binge drinking is just as harmful as drinking every day. It can sometimes be more harmful because you’re drinking more alcohol in a shorter period of time.

Alcohol misuse, if it carries on over a long time, can seriously stunt your growth, affect your brain development and impact on how you perform at school. You will also be more vulnerable to health problems and there is a greater chance that you will become involved in anti-social behaviour or crime.

Do's and Don'ts

Do Don't
Find out about the impact of drinking on your body. Drink alcohol if you’re underage.
The police have powers to confiscate alcohol from under 18s drinking in public spaces. If an officer asks you to hand over your alcohol, give it to them. Force your friends to drink alcohol if they don’t want to.
If someone is drinking, make sure they stick with a group of friends they know and look out for each other. Put something in someone’s drink. You are committing a criminal offence if you do so.
Know what’s going on in the environment you’re in. Thieves may take advantage of you or your friends if they sense you’re vulnerable. Let alcohol get you into a fight or argument with your friends or someone else.

Remember drinking alcohol may seem like a laugh at the time, but drinking can have serious effects on your health. Waking up with a hangover is not a good start to the day. Some of the effects of alcohol include:

  • Being tired
  • Being dehydrated
  • Having a severe headache
  • Feeling nauseous or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite.

Although these effects usually disappear after a day or two, you could do your body more long lasting damage if you drink.

Drinking alcohol can increase your vulnerability when you’re out and about because it alters what you think is happening around you. You may become more confident and think you can take more risks.

You need to remember to keep yourself safe and out of the hands of people who want to do you harm.

Signs of teenage alcohol abuse

If you are worried that someone you know has a problem with alcohol, look out for the following signs:

  1. An increasingly aggressive nature, being moody or angry all the time or verbal or physical abuse to others
  2. Asking for extra pocket money which may be spent on purchasing alcohol
  3. Lying
  4. Isolation from family members or a disinterest in wanting to spend time with close family
  5. A smell of alcohol on your/their breath or noticeable slurring of speech
  6. Socialising with a different set of friends or friends that are older
  7. Grades dropping at school or a poor or falling rate of attendance at school
  8. Little time spent at home. The majority of time spent in the house in the room.

Remember, it is only necessary for someone to have a couple of these symptoms for them to have a drink problem.

How to help

One of the most important things that a friend can do is talk to the person you are worried about. Teenagers and young people turn to alcohol for numerous different reasons, for some is because they are trying be part of the crowd, so they aren’t singled out or seen as boring. Alternatively, alcohol misuse could indicate that there are problems at home or they are using alcohol to escape from other problems or stresses. Try to encourage your friend to speak to their parents/carers or a trusted teacher about their issues and encourage them to visit some of the websites below for advice and guidance.

Do you know what you’re drinking?

If you are having a drink do you really know what you’re drinking? Do you leave your drink unattended? Anyone could slip something into your drink when you least expect it.

Drinking alcohol can make you vulnerable, if your drink gets spiked it can really affect you and make you susceptible to criminals.

Did you know?

Drink spiking is illegal, whether or not an attack or assault has been carried out. It can result in a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison for anyone who is found guilty of doing it. If an assault, rape or robbery has also taken place, then the sentence will be even higher.

What should I do if I think my drink has been spiked?

If you think that your drink has been spiked, you should stop drinking it and tell someone you trust, that you think your drink has been spiked. If you are out on your own, ask the pub landlord or bar manager to call one of your friends. Then you need to get to a safe place, whether that’s at home or at a friend’s house.

If you start to feel ill, get someone you trust to take you to your nearest A&E department and tell the medical staff that you think you’ve had your drink spiked.

How can I avoid my drink being spiked?

If your drink has been spiked it’s unlikely that you will be able to see, smell or taste any difference.

The following steps may help prevent someone from spiking your drink:

  • Never leave your drink unattended
  • Don’t accept a drink from someone you don’t know
  • Keep an eye on your friends’ drink/s
  • Stay away from situations that you don’t feel comfortable with
  • Let someone know where you are and what time you expect to be home, especially if you’re going on a date with someone you don’t know
  • Don’t give out too much information to someone you’ve just met, such as your address.
  • It’s important to remember that if you’ve already been drinking, it may make you less aware of any danger.
    The most common reasons for drink spiking are:
  • For amusement
  • To be malicious
  • To carry out sexual assault or rape
  • To carry out a theft.

If you do go out, remember to make sure that you and your friends/family get home safely. Get them to text you when they get home, and you text them when you get home. That way you don’t have to spend the night worrying about them.

Remember, it’s not just women who get their drinks spiked.