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Alcohol & Other Drugs

RESOURCES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

At Encounter Youth, we know the majority of young people celebrate with their mates, have a great time, make great choices and arrive home safely. We know some risky things can occur, so we want to provide you with all the information so you can make a choice that’s right for you, and choices that will ensure you and your mates continue to celebrate safely in the future.

Before A Night Out

We realise some parties can bring an expectation and pressure to do things outside a person’s comfort zone or may challenge a person’s values and beliefs.

We’d like to introduce you to a different type of PRES to think about before heading on a night out with your mates.

Think PRES before heading on a night out.

Prepare with reliable information

You are most likely to ask your mates for advice before anyone else but remember they’re learning as well and may not know all the facts. Be encouraged to find out from a credible source such as the information below.

Rate the risk.

Should you fill out a report about all the things that could go wrong before heading out? It doesn’t have to be that official but definitely have a good conversation with the people you’re with as to what you’re all comfortable with. Is what you have planned rating too high in risk? What happens if your night doesn’t go to plan? (E.g. get split up? A mate has had too much to drink?). If something goes wrong you’ll be thankful that everyone is on the same page!

Explore your options to get home safely.

Can you safely get to and from the party you want to attend? We’d encourage you to know the person driving, if they are sober and that your comfortable they drive safely. And always have a back-up plan.

Settle on the decisions you want to make before, during and after the party.

Everyone wants to get to the end of their night and know they have made choices that they are confident with. If you make a decision at the start of the night know it’s a great choice to follow through with it.

Getting to and from the Party Safely

To The Party

Getting your P’s is exciting and allows a bit more independence when planning how to get around. However, there may still be some restrictions on when you can drive (especially on a P1 licence) and how many people can be in the car.

For detailed information about the licence conditions in your state, check out these links.

From The Party

Getting to and from the party.

How do I know I’m sober and safe to drive?

Many young people we speak to in our alcohol & other drug education seminars ask,

How do you know when you’re sober and at 0.00 to legally drive again?

It can take a long time for there to be no alcohol traced in a person’s system. The Alcohol & Drug Foundation has a guide for full licence drivers to stay under the limit of 0.05%. This guide says:

  • For men, no more than 2 standard drinks in the first hour and one standard drink each hour after that
  • For women, no more than one standard drink each hour

This is an estimate and should not be used as an absolute guide. Why? Each person who chooses to drink is affected by alcohol in a different way so it may take more or less than an hour for a person to process 1 standard drink. Yes, you may have noticed based on this estimate, males generally can process alcohol faster than females. Females have more fat and less body water than men and are generally smaller too. Alcohol is absorbed into the body water so because women have less, they will have a higher BAC than men who have had the same amount of alcohol. Other factors that may influence a person’s BAC returning to zero include how much food a person has eaten, body weight, sex hormones and medications.

This is a guide to stay under 0.05. What does this mean for a L/P plater to have 0.00 BAC?

It can take much longer for there to be no trace of alcohol in a person’s system. Is there anything you can do to speed up the sobering up process? A cold shower? Cup of coffee? Slam down a Red Bull? A Macca’s run on the way home? The answer is NO. Yes some of these methods may make someone feel more alert due to the sugar or boost in energy as a result of eating, but the only thing that will sober a person up is TIME.

It can be more than 60 minutes after a person has stopped drinking for the BAC to reach its highest. If a person has eaten food, it could be even longer, as the alcohol has to work through all that food to get into the bloodstream.

If a person has had a heavy night of drinking, it could be more than 18 hours after a person’s last drink before they’re back to 0.00 BAC.

Party Fights

Unfortunately party fights and alcohol fuelled violence have made big news headlines in recent years. With this growing concern, what can you do as a young person to stay safe and be aware of those around you?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey found that “42% of all men aged 18 years and over and 37% of all women aged 18 years and over had experienced violence since the age of 15”. Of these victims, 61% reported that alcohol or other drugs contributed to the assault.

Unfortunately, party fights happen.

Key Warning Signs To Move On…

  • An unfamiliar group arrives at a party – Gatecrashers
  • A fight is brewing nearby (people getting verbally agressive, or looking angry)
  • Someone has already tried to start a fight with you or a mate

What Can You Do To Protect Yourself?

  • Walk around groups of people going to and from a party, particularly if they are affected by alcohol or other drugs
  • Avoid direct eye contact with unfamiliar groups of people
  • Ensure you always have a safe exit from the party
  • If someone starts an argument with you or a mate, apologise if necessary, empty your hands of anything which may pose as a threat and leave when it is safe
  • If verbal abuse turns physical = WALK AWAY
  • If a mate wants to start a fight, distract them from the situation and try and get them out of the environment.
  • Get as much information about the party before arriving. If you’ve got a gut feeling something isn’t quite right, a decision may be made to call it a night in

General Info about Young People and Alcohol

Arm yourself with the facts

The 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey findings  shows younger people aged 14-24 are continuing to delay their use of alcohol until a later age with the average age to first try alcohol increasing from 14.4 years in 1998 to 16.2 years in 2019.

This study also showed that the number of 14-19 year olds choosing not to drink alcohol increased from 29% in 2004 to 52.4% in 2019.

General information about alcohol & other drugs.

The number of 14-19 year olds choosing not to drink alcohol increased from 29% in 2004 to 52.4% in 2019.

In addition, the 2017 Australian Secondary School Students Alcohol and Other Drug Survey shows more younger people are describing themselves as non-drinkers. The majority of young people up to 15 years of age consider themselves a non-drinker. Even at 16 years old, half consider themselves a non-drinker, and 37% at 17 years of age. This increase of non-drinkers is a trend which has been observed of Australian Secondary School Students over the past decade.

The number of young people choosing to drink in the previous week has also decreased. In 1996, 50% of students aged 16 to 17 had consumed alcohol in the previous week compared to 29% in 2017. This shows the regularity of young people’s alcohol use has decreased.

What About Young People Who Are Choosing To Drink?

In recent years there has been growing concern and media attention in relation to young people and binge drinking. Whilst the number of young people who classify themselves as non-drinkers has increased, there is concern for those younger people aged 12-17 and young adults who are choosing to drink at risky levels.


The Australian Alcohol Guidelines were updated in December 2020. These guidelines suggest:

  • Adults: To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, healthy adults should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day. The less you drink the lower your risk of harm from alcohol.
  • Young people under 18: To reduce the risk of injury and other harms to health, children and people under 18 years of age should not drink alcohol.
  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding: To prevent harm from alcohol to their unborn child women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should not drink alcohol. For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is safest for their baby.

For more information visit National Health and Medical Research Council website.


There is particular concern for younger people drinking alcohol beyond the Australian Guidelines for adults. The guidelines state under 18s should not drink and encourage young people to delay their use of alcohol as long as possible. However, the latest statistics of 17-year-old secondary students found 13% of 17-year-olds had consumed more than 4 alcoholic drinks on one day in the last week.

So Why Are Under 18s Advised Not To Drink?

Young people are encouraged not to drink due to the massive changes occurring in the body, particularly the brain. The brain is in the second critical stage of development from 12 years of age right up to 25 years of age (even older for some males). Alcohol affects each part of the body no matter what age someone is, but alcohol is more sensitive to two key areas of a young person’s brain as it grows, prunes and develops.

Prefrontal Lobe

The last part of the brain to develop is the prefrontal lobe. Here is where crucial skills are developing in:

  • decision making
  • problem solving
  • impulse control
  • behaviour monitoring
  • reasoning
  • personality
  • speech
  • memory

Recent research has shown the impact of alcohol within the prefrontal lobe. Younger people who binge drink are at increased risk of this key brain structure being smaller in size and impaired in function.

Hippocampus

This part of the brain is responsible for storing memory. Naturally, this structure shrinks as people get older. However, younger people are more sensitive to alcohol and binge drinking, which has been found to cause a shrinking of the hippocampus and subsequent memory impairments. In the short term, younger people are also more likely to black out (lose memory) as a result of drinking alcohol. This increases the risk of young people choosing to do things they may later regret, or they may not be able to respond appropriately if something unexpected happens.

Alcohol causes Cancer

Early initiation of alcohol use increases the amount a person consumes over their lifetime and their likelihood of risky alcohol use in adolescent years and young adulthood. The past few decades of research have established that alcohol causes cancer. It has also been shown that this risk increases with the amount a person consumes.

Australian research, conducted by the National Drug Research Institute found that 2106 deaths per year were due to alcohol-induced cancer.

This another reason why young people are encouraged not to drink alcohol for as long as possible to reduce their risk of long-term health impacts.

General Info about Drugs

Arm yourself with the facts

Alcohol is the drug of most concern for young people but many people also express concern about other drugs when young people are attending a party or mass gathering. So what is the latest on drug use for young people?

The good news is that overall, fewer young people are choosing to use illicit drugsthan 20 years ago. In 2001, 38% of 14-19 year olds had used an illicit drug (including illicit use of pharmaceuticals), but by 2019, this had dropped to 22%. However, there are some drugs that have seen increases in use among young people, particularly MDMA (ecstasy, pills, caps) and cocaine.

If we look specifically at the latest information of Australian Secondary School Students use of drugs from 14-17 year olds we can see the majority of younger peoplechoose not to use illicit drugs.

General information about other drugs.
*Analgesics = pain relievers

Many drugs fall under the ‘party’ drug name. These drugs are usually illicit drugs and to put it simply, illicit drugs are never safe because of their unpredictable nature.

Illicit drugs are unpredictable…

In the way they will affect each person.

For example, a group of friends may decide to share a batch of MDMA caps. One person could become very ill requiring hospitalisation whilst others did not experience the same effects. Each pill in this batch could have been exactly the same but each person’s body will respond to any drug use differently, whether illicit or legal drugs.

In what each will contain

It is unknown what illicit drugs contain as there are no standards in their manufacture and production. In most cases, there is no information provided to say who made them, what quantity of each chemical is in each pill/capsule/bag, what effect this combination of chemicals will have, no expiry date and no amount which has been found to be safe for the user to take. The absence of this information makes any illicit drug very unpredictable and very risky. Each time a user experiments with an illicit drug it carries a risk, regardless of how many times a person has used a drug.

Cannabis

The 2017 Australian Secondary School Students Alcohol and Other Drug Survey revealed 14% of secondary school students between the ages of 12 and 17 years had used cannabis at some stage in their life. The use of cannabis increased with age with 31% of 17-year-olds having used this drug in their lifetime.

Cannabis & Mental Health

One of the major concerns of cannabis use is the impact on the mental health of younger users. Cannabis use has been linked to mental health illnesses such as:

Anxiety
Depression
Psychosis
Schizophrenia

For those young people with a family history of mental illnesses, use of cannabis carries a higher risk.

Cannabis & Social Life

For young people, cannabis can affect normal day-to-day life where someone may lack motivation to get up and go to school, work or other study. If someone does get up and moving, it still may be difficult for them to learn due to poor attention and concentration. These things combined may cause someone’s school performance to be affected but also their relationships with friends and other important adult role models.

Need Help For You Or A Mate?

If you need help or advice for you or a mate, call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015. This hotline is run by the Australian Government Department for Health and can be accessed by anybody in Australia

MDMA (Caps, Pills, Ecstasy)

The majority of Australian secondary school students have not used ecstasy in their life. Of 17 year old students surveyed, 11% of people had used ecstasy in their lifetime.

Ecstasy can be viewed by some as a ‘safe’ party drug but the reality is someone is taking something and unaware of it’s contents. There can be a huge range of purities between each pill or cap with varied levels of MDMA. The colours and logos are merely a marketing tool and even similar looking pills or caps can have different purities and chemicals. If someone is unaware of what is in it, it’s unknown how it will affect them. If someone is unaware of how it will affect them, someone may be placed in a situation where they need medical care but have mates who don’t know what to do.

We encourage young people that if they suspect a friend has taken MDMA, to keep an eye on their body temperature and hydration (they should be drinking around 1-2 cups of water an hour). If they appear hot and unable to regulate their temperature, they are drinking excessive amounts of fluids, or you are concerned for their safety, call 000.

Methamphetamine

Despite the increased media attention regarding methamphetamine use, the latest research does not suggest a significant increase in the number of people using the drug. Use among young people is very rare with only 3% of 17-year-olds having ever used it, and only 1% having used it in the past month.

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug and because there are no standards in the way it is produced, it is not known what goes into the drug. Methamphetamine causes the brain to release a ‘happy’ chemical called dopamine at 1000 times the normal rate of release. As the drug leaves a user’s system, an extreme low is experienced where the user may feel anxious, depressed, psychotic and have trouble sleeping.

Cocaine

Cocaine is another drug which is getting a bit more attention recently and this is mostly because the number of 15-24 year olds choosing to use it in the past year increased 3.8% in 2016 to 8% in 2019.

Cocaine is a strong stimulant and can create additional strain on a person’s heart and can make anxiety symptoms worse. Use of any drug carries a risk, but cocaine carries a much higher risk for people who have or have a family history of heart problems or anxiety.

Getting Further Information And Support

If you need help or advice around drugs for you or a mate, call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015.

This hotline is managed by the Australian Government Department for Health and can redirect the caller to the Alcohol and Drug Information Service in their relevant state or territory.

Interested in finding out more? Have a look at our Encounter Youth Education page which outlines all we offer in our alcohol & other drug program. You may also want to see all we do at Encounter Youth.