Underage drinking

The law

Until you are 18, it is illegal to be sold alcohol, or for someone else to buy alcohol for you. Even trying to buy alcohol is breaking the law.

If you’re under 18 and drinking alcohol in public, you can be stopped, fined or arrested by police and they will take your alcohol from you. If you are caught with alcohol 3 times, you can then face a social contract, fine or even an arrest. A criminal record seriously affects job prospects and travelling to other countries.

Drinking alcohol in public under the age of 18 is only legal for 16 or 17 year olds, who can sometimes have a drink of wine, cider, perry or beer with a meal if they are with an adult, who buys it for them. A pub may refuse this, depending on their license and conditions.


For underage drinkers especially, alcohol is not healthy.

Alcohol poisoning is common in younger drinkers, as they are not fully developed. Thousands of young people end up in hospital every year because of alcohol poisoning and some of these people die.

Accidents and injuries are more common in young people who drink. As alcohol can increase your confidence, but will also weaken your judgement, accidents are far more likely. This can range from scratches and bruises, to violence, to fatal accidents.

The risk of having unsafe sex also increases with the use of alcohol. This leads to the chance of STIs and pregnancy.

Drinking is a common gateway for young people. It has been proven that young people who drink are more likely to smoke tobacco and cannabis, as well as go on to use hard drugs.

Underage drinking can contribute to a lack of sleep, bad skin, major weight loss and gain and severe headaches.

As a teenager, your brain is still developing. Alcohol can be damaging to this process, which can be bad for your memory, learning ability and attention span. All of these things can affect your performance at school, work or college.

Excessive drinking underage can lead to mental health issues, or make existing problems worse.

Contact information

Drug and Alcohol Action Team

01344 312360