Parenting teens: Alcohol guidelines

Parenting teens: Alcohol guidelines

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

  • it is best not to supply alcohol to young people under 18 
  • it's not the amount of liquid you are drinking that's important – it's the amount of alcohol it contains
  • it takes our bodies at least 1 hour - and sometimes much longer - to remove 1 standard drink from our bodies
  • drinking alcohol has both immediate and long-term health effects

What is a standard drink?

It's not the amount of liquid you are drinking that's important – it's the amount of alcohol it contains.

The standard drinks measure is a simple way for you to work out how much alcohol you are drinking. It reflects the amount of pure alcohol in a drink. One standard drink equals 10 grams of pure alcohol (approximately 2 teaspoons).

It's not the amount of liquid you are drinking that's important – it's the amount of alcohol it contains. As different types of alcoholic drinks have different amounts of alcohol in them, the number of standard drinks in each can, bottle or cask, will also vary.

It takes our bodies at least 1 hour - and sometimes much longer - to remove 1 standard drink from our bodies. Women absorb and metabolise alcohol differently than men. They have higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC) after consuming the same amount of alcohol as men, and are more at risk of alcoholic liver disease, heart muscle damage1 , and brain damage.2

See the Health Promotion Agency's 'Guide to standard drinks (PDF, 1.23MB)'.  You'll find the standard drinks content on the label, container or packaging of each drink.

Graphic showing alcohol in standard drinks

Drinking guidelines - lower your risk

Drinking alcohol has both immediate and long-term health effects. Because people are different – there is no amount of alcohol that can be said to be safe for everyone. Low risk drinking guidelines reflect the harms that might arise from single drinking occasions (where there is a risk of injury to self or others) and from the long-term health consequences of regular drinking (such as increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, liver disease and addiction problems).

Current long-term drinking guidelines3 to lower your risk advise:

For young people

Not drinking is the safest option for young people under 18 years of age.

  • it is best not to supply alcohol to young people under 18
  • try 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

For adults

  • 2 standard drinks a day for women and no more than 10 standard drinks a week
  • 3 standard drinks a day for men and no more than 15 standard drinks a week

Graphic showing standard drink sizes

Related information on this website

Parenting teens: Alcohol facts
Parenting teens: Alcohol and young people

1. Urbano-Márquez, A.; Estruch, R.; Fernández-Solá, J.; Nicolás, J.M.; Paré, J.C.; & Rubin, E. The greater risk of alcoholic cardiomyopathy and myopathy in women compared with men. JAMA 274(2):149-154, 1995
2. Nixon, S.J. Cognitive deficits in alcoholic women. Alcohol Health & Research World 18(3):228-232, 1994
3. ALAC website https://www.alcohol.org.nz/help-advice/advice-on-alcohol/low-risk-alcohol-drinking-advice

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).Image of the cover of "Whanau pack" booklet

Copyright

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 07 December 2017.
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