Alcohol, drugs and psychoactive substances

Why do young people try drugs and alcohol?

People take drugs because they want to change something about their lives. Here are some of the reasons young people have given for taking drugs:

  • To fit in.

  • To escape or relax.

  • To relieve boredom.

  • To seem grown up.

  • To rebel.

  • To experiment.

They think drugs are a solution. But eventually, the drugs become the problem.

Difficult as it may be to face one’s problems, the consequences of drug use are always worse than the problem one is trying to solve with them. The real answer is to get the facts and not to take drugs in the first place. Drugs can also seriously affect your child’s health or the way they see the world around them. This can lead to depression, loss of judgement and even death. There are many risks with any drink or drug use, so they need to ask themself, is it really worth it?

Maybe they’re thinking about taking drugs because they’re stressed at school or worried about home life. Try to understand why they want to take drugs or drink, and try to find a better way for them to deal with pressures. Get them to talk in confidence to their school nurse.

Prescription medicines should only be taken by the person whose name is on the medicine. Even prescription medicines can have serious side effects if not taken correctly. If you are worried seek advice from the person who has prescribed them or your GP.

Commonly used drugs

People use all sorts of substances, both illegal and legal, to get ‘high’. Illegal drugs are things like Cannabis, Amphetamines, Ecstasy, Cocaine, MDMA, Xanax and Heroin. Psychoactive Substances, previously known as ‘legal highs’ are NOT legal or safe.

Many legal substances are also harmful and addictive like cigarettes, alcohol, glue, petrol and aerosols. It’s illegal for shopkeepers to sell tobacco products or alcohol to anyone under 18.

Remember if someone overdoses or has a bad reaction to a substance they have taken, you need to call 999 and ask for an ambulance. The ambulance will not call the police.

Are they drinking too much?

Are they or their friends drinking too much?

  • Are they drinking because they’ve got problems at school or at home? Try to solve these.

  • Are their friends drinking a lot too?

  • Tell them it’s ok to say no, not to feel under pressure to drink.

  • Tell them to help friends to face the fact that they’ve got a problem and get some help.

  • Remember that people have to want to change their habits - you can’t do it for them.

How much is too much? The government's unit guidelines state that there’s no safe level of alcohol consumption. Unit guidelines are the same for men and women and both are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units per week. That’s the same as 6 glasses of wine or 6 pints of beer.


Teen Challenge UK
01664 822 221

Project 6
01535 610180

Freephone 0300 123 6600 - 24 hours a day in confidence.

Alcohol Concern
Drinkline (Confidential) call free on 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am-8pm, weekends 11am-4pm)

National Association for Children of Alcoholics
0800 358 3456

Children of Addicted Parents (COAP)
COAP is an online community for young people living with a family member's addiction to drugs, alcohol or behaviour such as gambling.

Useful downloads