The safest option for young people under 18 years of age is no alcohol. Damage can occur to their developing brain, and can increase their risk of undertaking dangerous behaviours. These behaviours can lead to short and long term damages to their physical and mental health.
The below guidelines are based on the best available evidence about alcohol-related harm and young people.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) advise that:
It is important that no one supplies young people aged under 18 years with alcohol, as it can increase their risk of experiencing short and long-term harms, including impact on their developing brain.
Evidence has shown alcohol consumption is harmful to the developing brain, particularly the area of the brain responsible for rational thinking. Damage to this part of the brain during its development can lead to:
Drinking alcohol can lead to damage in the future. Drinking alcohol from an early age can contribute to a range of health impacts and harms from antisocial behaviour and injury through to violence and even suicide.2 Studies have shown that young people who were drinking by 14 years of age were more likely to experience alcohol dependence than those who did not drink until they were over 21 years old.3
1 National Health and Medical Research Council.(2009). Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol: Commonwealth of Australia
2 Department for Communities Office for Youth and Drug and Alcohol Office. (2007). Young People and Alcohol. Government of Western Australia.
3 Hingson, R., Heeren, T., Winter, M. (2006) Age at drinking onset and alcohol dependence: age at onset, duration, and severity. Arch Pediatr Adoles Med 160: 739–46.
Call the Alcohol and Drug Support Line on (08) 9442 5000 or 1800 198 024 toll free for country callers.
For emergencies call the 000 emergency line.