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What is Alcohol?

What we mean by alcohol here is alcoholic drinks, such as beer, wine and spirits. The scientific name for the alcohol in these drinks is ethanol or ethyl alcohol. Other chemical forms of alcohol, such as methanol and butanol, are much more toxic than ethanol and should not be consumed by humans.

Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows down your body’s responses in all kinds of ways. Just enough can make you feel sociable. Too much and you’ll have a hangover the next day and may not even remember what you got up to; and way too much alcohol in a single session could put you in a coma or even kill you.

Although it’s legal for people aged 18 and over to buy and drink alcohol, that doesn’t mean it’s safe.

What are the effects of alcohol?

Alcohol is a depressant and generally slows down brain activity:

• A small amount can reduce feelings of anxiety and reduce inhibitions, which can help you feel more sociable.
• It can exaggerate whatever mood you’re in when you start drinking.
• The short-term effects of alcohol can last for a day or two, depending on how much you drank, including any hangover.
• Long-term effects include damage to the brain, body and its organs. This can take years to develop and can lead to a wide range of serious health problems, like cancers, that you may not realise are due to alcohol.

Remember that the more you have of a drink, and the stronger the drink, the more units you are drinking.

What is a unit of alcohol?

A unit is a way of expressing the actual amount of pure alcohol that is in a drink. This allows you to compare how strong one type of alcoholic drink is to another type. For example:

• half a pint of lower-strength beer, lager or cider (ABV 3.6%), or a 25ml measure of spirits (ABV 40%) is 1 unit,
• one pint of stronger beer (ABV 5%) can be almost 3 units, and
• one large glass (250mls) of mid-strength wine (ABV 12-13%) can be over three units.

Check the label on drinks as they often show the number of alcohol units. If they don’t, you can calculate the units by multiplying its ABV (ABV is ‘alcohol by volume’ and shows you the strength of an alcoholic drink), by the volume of the drink (in mls) and then dividing by 1,000:

The information above has been taken from ‘Talk to FRANK’ for more information go to the FRANK website. Talk to Frank – Alcohol

Strategies to prevent your child drinking alcohol underage

Parents can feel helpless about their children and alcohol. You might feel there is little you can do to prevent them from experimenting with alcohol underage or getting pulled into drinking unwisely. Countless studies have shown that parents have significant influence over the attitude and relationship their child develops with alcohol so there is plenty you can do.

• Build their resilience and self-esteem
• Look at your own approach to alcohol
• Agree rules and boundaries around alcohol
• Help them to see they can say ‘No’
• Prevent alcohol being the answer to boredom
• Know and welcome their friends

Click here for further information on any of the points above.

Alcohol and the law

Being clear on the law around alcohol is important – for both parents and children. The law isn’t simply about knowing right from wrong. It’s a reminder of the potential consequence of drinking alcohol underage. Click here for further information.

5 tips for talking to your child about alcohol

Get the tone right – Make it a conversation not a lecture. Listen as much as you talk. This encourages young people to pay attention and open up. It’s really important that you don’t come across as judgmental, critical or disapproving of what they say.

Get the timing right – Talking about important issues such as drinking alcohol needs to be done at the right time. Starting a discussion just as they’re going out the door to meet friends or in the middle of an argument about other things can lead to conflict. You’re more likely to have a greater impact on your child’s decisions about drinking if you have a number of chats. Try talking when you ‘look busy’ as this gives both of you time to think. Driving the car, cooking, doing your nails etc are perfect times to have a chat. Think of it as part of an on-going conversation.

Choose conversational triggers – If they haven’t brought up the subject you could find a ‘hook’; a recent film or TV storyline, a celebrity scandal involving drink – simply ask “What do you think?” and follow on from what they say.

Be honest – We don’t want to come across as hypocritical or get caught out saying one thing and having done another but if you’re not honest they might not believe what you tell them. It’s far better to confess, for example, that “yes, I drank at your age – and I wish I hadn’t. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have.” And if their questions get uncomfortable, say so.

Set rules – Young people like to push boundaries and test rules. That’s part of being a teenager. But the fact is that they feel safer if there are guidelines. Have clear rules and have sanctions for breaking them.

For further advice including what to do if your child comes home drunk click here.

Worried about your own drinking?

If you’re worried about how much you drink try the Alcohol Self-Assessment Test.

Services available? (who to refer to)

DELTA young people’s Drug and Alcohol Service provides information, advice and support to young people who are using alcohol. The service can help young people to cut down or stop their use. DELTA offers support to Parents and carers who are concerned about alcohol. This includes information on alcohol and changes in behaviour, and relevant signs and symptoms.

Practical information on what you can do to continue to support the young person. You can if you wish refer the child/young person into DELTA provided they consent. If not we can continue to provide support for yourselves.

Telephone: 01724 298528
Address: 22-24 Cole Street
DN15 6QS