Drinking alcohol?

The legal age for drinking alcohol is 18 but the law does recognise that it is more acceptable for young people to drink in some circumstances and under adult supervision.

Official government advice for young people and their parents about alcohol was published in January 2009 by the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson.

His recommendations were that children should not drink before they are 15, if at all. 15-17-years-olds should only drink when they're supervised by a parent or other adult and, if they do drink, they shouldn't do so very often and definitely no more than once a week.

The police realise that young people under the age of 18 do drink alcohol, so if you are lucky enough to look older than you really are, or if you are drinking somewhere private, you are unlikely to get into trouble. However, if you are drinking in public or you are drunk in public you run the risk of being stopped by the police or even arrested.

Support services are available for young people (and their parents) who have alcohol problems.

Alcohol and sex

There is a strong link between alcohol and sex. Alcohol can make you lose your inhibitions (make you less shy), cloud your judgement and sometimes make you completely forget what you did when you were drunk.

Did you know that, after drinking alcohol, one in seven 16-24 year olds have had unprotected sex? One in five has had sex that they regretted and one in 10 has been unable to remember if they had sex the night before.

By mixing sex and alcohol you are increasing your chances of unplanned pregnancy and getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) because, if you have sex when you are drunk, you are less likely to use a condom.

60 per cent of young women who are infected with an STI say they were under the influence of alcohol when they had sex with the infected person.

Alcohol can also affect your body in other ways. Your response times are reduced and you are more likely to take risks, men may have trouble getting, or keeping, an erection and both men and women can find it more difficult to reach orgasm.

Alcohol can also make people more temperamental, sad, angry or violent. This can lead to intentional or unintentional self harm or leave you more vulnerable to being robbed or attacked.

It is illegal to have sex with someone who is incapacitated (i.e. can't consent to sex) due to alcohol or drugs. That can mean someone who is 'completely out of it', someone who is unconscious, asleep or just too drunk to think clearly.

Long term alcohol abuse can have a devastating effect on your body and your sex life. It can cause erection disorders in men, loss of sexual desire, difficulties having an orgasm and make you less able to find or keep a partner.

You can help keep yourself safe by watching your drinks when you are out and making sure no-one tampers with them or spikes them. If you are going to put your drink down only leave it with someone you know or trust. Don't leave your drink unattended and don't accept drinks from people you don't know unless you see them being poured.

Use the buddy system! Don't go to parties by yourself. If you go out in a group always make sure one of your friends stays sober whether they are driving or not. It's important one person keeps a clear head all night.

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