This page is about giving you, the Central Coast teenager, a quick summary of some of the most important alcohol information. We also want to let you know what is going on locally to reduce alcohol harm for young people. 

There is stacks of information on the web for teenagers about alcohol. Some of it very helpful, some of it not so great. We're not going to try and re-produce all the good stuff here. For some in-depth alcohol information good sites include: 'The Alcohol and Drug Foundation', 'NSW Police', 'What are you doing to yourself?', 'Your Room' and 'The Cool Spot'.

Here are some of the really important things you should know -

Most Central Coast teenagers are not risky drinkers (read more)

There is no safe level of alcohol drinking for under 18's (read more)

Binge drinking is particularly dangerous (read more)

There are things happening to reduce alcohol harm for young people. (read more)

Help is available if you're already having a problem with alcohol. (read more)

There are strong laws in place to reduce alcohol harm for young people (read more)

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Most Central Coast teenagers are not risky drinkers 

Way too many 15 to 17 year olds end up in hospital or worse for alcohol related problems. In fact 15 to 17 year olds are second only to 18 to 24 year olds for alcohol related injury. But that doesn't mean most young people are risky drinkers.

Because alcohol is so harmful to young people, the small percentage who do drink often run into harm.

Don't feel like you have to drink alcohol to be normal. The truth is that most young people between 13 and 17 don't drink alcohol at all, and thankfully most of the ones that do drink, don't drink very much. Drinking, particularly risky drinking (that's drinking more than 4 drinks on one day as an adult), is not what the majority of teenagers do, and is actually decreasing.

Don't believe what some news stories would have you believe, that teenage drinking is out of control. To get figures on current underage drinking and how much it is decreasing take a look at The NSW School Students Health Behaviours Survey Report ,or the National Drug Strategy Household Survey, or the Australian Secondary Students Alcohol and Drugs Survey. They all say the same thing – most teenagers don't drink, and the amount that do is decreasing!

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There is no safe level of alcohol drinking for under 18's 

Drinking alcohol at any age comes with risks, but these risks are much bigger for young people because your brain is still developing.

Alcohol can cause physical changes to the developing brain that can damage it permanently. This can make it harder to learn, remember things and solve problems, and also lead to mental health issues like depression.

Because the decision making part of your brain is still developing, alcohol can really mess up your normal thinking. You're less likely than an adult to realise you're getting drunk, and much more likely take crazy risks, embarrass or even accidentally harm yourself or others. You're more likely to suffer alcohol poisoning and even death from alcohol overdose than older drinkers.

Also, the earlier you start to drink the more likely you are to suffer drinking problems later in life.

The best thing to do is to say no to alcohol until you are at least 18. Even then, don't drink at adult risky levels (more than 4 drinks in one go). As well as all the other reasons not to drink too much, your brain is still developing and won't benefit from soaking in alcohol. The human brain continues to develop until you're about 25 years old.

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Binge drinking is particularly dangerous. 

"Binge Drinking" is drinking lots (5 or more) on one day or at one time like at a party.

Fortunately, very few young people drink 5 or more drinks in a day. Sadly some people will do it regularly. They put themselves at risk of being seriously hurt or doing things they wouldn't normally do, like vomiting, passing out or getting into a fight.

Drinking like this at such a young age also increases the chances of future problems with alcohol.

Listen to what Head of Accident and Emergency on the Central Coast of NSW, Dr Kate Porges, has to say about binge drinking.

 

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There are things happening to reduce alcohol harm for young people.

Education

There are some great programs being run in our schools to educate young people about alcohol. Good school education programs include;

It couldn't happen to me (stages 4 and 5)  

SHAHRP - School Health and Alcohol Harm Reduction Project (stages 4 and 5)  

Climate Schools (Stage 4)  

Blurred Minds (Stage 5)

Crossroads (Stage 6)

The best education programs include learning how to see through the advertising. The alcohol industry is very clever at using advertising to make their product look harmless and fun. Advertisements associate drinking with being successful, popular, sexy, whatever. They're pretty good at leaving out the bad stuff!

Even the industry's so-called harm reduction advertising campaign for young adults 'How to drink properly' has come in for heavy criticism for actually encouraging rather than discouraging drinking.

Journalist Susie O'Brien wrote – "The latest public campaign designed to teach young people to drink less has a slogan that actually promotes alcohol consumption: it's 'Drinking: do it properly'. It glorifies alcohol and talks about how to achieve the 'realm of drinking excellence'". Read more.

The Conversation reported "'Drinking – Do it properly' promotes drinking as a cool thing for young adults to do". Read more.

Leading public health advocate Mike Daube said the campaign should be banned. Read more.

For many young people alcohol education at school is not going to be enough - We can't expect education to get through to everyone when alcohol is so heavily promoted through advertising, especially through the promotion of sport. It has a big presence in many other events too, and it's for sale everywhere. It also might seem to some young people that many adults happily enjoy drinking without suffering harm. So it might seem hypocritical to say don't drink as a young person. Some misguided adults may even encourage young people to drink.

So what else is being done?........

Alcohol Pricing, Availability, Advertising and the Law.

At a National and NSW level there are groups trying to do things to change Australian drinking culture and reduce risky drinking and harm. This includes reducing alcohol advertising and availability and restricting cheap alcohol. Check out the fine work of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) and the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth.

Groups that want to reduce alcohol harm to young people don't have the marketing budget of the alcohol industry, but they do sometimes use advertising themselves to try and raise public awareness.

Most alcohol harm reduction TV commercials have focussed on young adult drinkers in the 18 to 24 age group. A recent example of this includes this YouTube clip from the 'Don't Turn a Night Out into a Nightmare' campaign.

  

When it comes to underage drinking, many TV advertisements focus on encouraging parents and other older adults not to promote underage drinking and not to supply alcohol to young people. Good examples include these 'Alcohol Think Again' TV commercials from Western Australia;

 

 

Attempts to influence teenagers directly include this Australian Government campaign from 2011 called 'Drinking – Where are your choices taking you'

  
 

So what is being done on the Central Coast? 

Secondary Supply - To drink alcohol teenagers have to get it from somewhere. The only person who can legally supply alcohol to an underage person is your parent or guardian. Anyone else can face big penalties (see Underage Drinking Laws Fact Sheet), and even your parent or guardian can be held responsible if they provide you with alcohol and things go wrong.

Unfortunately some adults don't understand the importance of young people not drinking until they're at least 18. The Local Health District regularly runs projects to ensure adults are aware that they must not supply under 18's with alcohol.

Retail Supply - Some of the most dangerous drinking happens when underage people manage to purchase alcohol themselves. A big project is currently running on the Central Coast to ensure bottle shops always check the IDs of young customers.

Number of alcohol outlets - There is loads of evidence around that putting more bottle shops in communities increases alcohol related harm like underage drinking and domestic violence. The Central Coast Local Health District and our local police keep a watch on new liquor license applications and object to any they think are going to add to alcohol problems. Some new license applications have been refused based on these objections.

In a 2014 92% of adults in a Central Coast community health survey said the Central Coast already had enough or too many alcohol outlets.

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Help is available if you're already having a problem with alcohol?

Prevention is better than cure, but if you or someone you know is already having problems with alcohol, help is available.

Consider talking to;

  • Your Parents/Carers
  • Year adviser
  • School Counsellor
  • Other teacher that you like
  • Central Coast Youth Health Service Ph (02) 4356 9333
  • Your Doctor
  • Lifeline Ph 131 114
  • Kids Help Line ph 1800 551 800
  • Alcohol and Drugs Information Service 1800 422 599

Heavy use of alcohol can lead to serious depression and other mood problems. If this is happening to you, then consider contacting any of the people or services mentioned above as well as Central Coast headspace on Ph 4304 7878.

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