Parenting teens: Alcohol facts

Parenting teens: Alcohol facts

Alcohol is our most common recreational drug. Not drinking is the safest option for young people under 18 years of age.

Key points to remember

  • for young people under 18, the safest option is to delay drinking for as long as possible
  • if under 18 year olds do drink, they should always be supervised, drink infrequently and at levels usually below and never exceeding 2 standard drinks
  • those under 15 years of age are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking, and not drinking in this age groups is especially important

Photo of mother and son with the words "Alcohol is our most common recreational drug. Not drinking is the safest option for young people under 18 years of age."

Did you know…?

  • 8 out of 10 New Zealanders aged 12- 65 years reported drinking alcohol within the past year and around 1.4 million people drank at least once a week2
  • New Zealanders spend approximately $85 million per week on retail alcohol sales3
  • about half of the drinkers under 25 years of age drink large quantities when they drink, as do about a quarter of all adult drinkers4
  • 1 out of 3 students reported binge drinking (5 or more standard drinks in a 4 hour period) in the past month5
  • alcohol is involved in around 1 out of every 3 crimes committed in New Zealand each year.It is also a common factor in violent and sexual assaults (including family violence), child abuse and neglect, and road crashes and other machinery accidents
  • alcohol contributes to more young people dying than any other drug. Between 2005 and 2007, alcohol contributed to the deaths of 1 in 4 children and young people7
  • alcohol is now recognised as a carcinogen (cancer causing) and is proven to raise the risk of breast cancer, mouth, throat, digestive system and liver
  • drinking alcohol during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage, as well as harm to your baby causing a range of lifelong effects. This range of effects is called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder or FASD for short. The effects can include premature birth, brain damage and physical birth defects. The effects continue after the baby is born and can include developmental delay, learning disabilities, and social, emotional and behavioural problems
  • no alcohol during pregnancy and breast feeding is the safest choice
  • pure alcohol contains 7 calories per gram or approximately 70 calories per 10 ml of pure alcohol (one standard drink measure)
  • drinking coffee, cold showers, drinking more alcohol, sleeping or fresh air do not sober you up. There is NO way to increase the rate at which your body gets rid of alcohol

Related information on this website

Parenting teens: Alcohol and young people
Parenting teens: Alcohol guidelines

Image of the cover of "Whanau pack" bookletThe content above is based on pages 36-46 below (PDF, 1.06MB) from the Whānau pack: Tools for families and parents with teenagers.

The Paediatric Society of New Zealand and Starship Foundation are very grateful to Northland District Health Board (NDHB) for permission to reproduce this content from the Whānau pack: Tools for families and parents with teenagers (PDF, 4.16MB). NDHB own the copyright in this material and it must not be copied or reproduced except as expressly permitted by NDHB. 

This page last reviewed 26 February 2015.
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