Alcohol and the law

Drinking under the age of 18

It’s illegal for:

  • someone under 18 to buy, attempt to buy, or be sold alcohol
  • someone to sell alcohol to someone under 18
  • a person under 18 to drink alcohol in a pub, restaurant or anywhere else they serve alcohol, unless with an adult and eating a meal

It’s legal for:

  • a 16 or 17 year old to drink beer, wine or cider with a meal in a restaurant or pub if they are with an adult who has bought it for them
  • an under 18 year old to drink at home or on other private premises

What happens if I break the law?

If the police catch you drinking then they will likely take your alcohol away from you. If you are caught three times or more you could be fined or arrested. If charged, a criminal record can affect your choices later on in life e.g. where you can travel in the world, job opportunities.

Interesting facts!

  • Every year in the UK, more than 10,000 fines for being drunk and disorderly are issued to young people aged 16 to 19
  • Children as young as 12 are being charged with criminal damage to other people’s property as a result of drinking


Driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs can slow down your reaction time, affect your concentration and impact your ability to drive safely.

Because of this, it is illegal to drive when under the influence of drugs and the alcohol limit for driving is very strict. The consequences include (depending on the circumstances):

  • a fine
  • a driving ban
  • a criminal record
  • a prison sentence

The legal alcohol limit for drivers in the UK is:

  • 35 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath
  • 80 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood
  • 107 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine

It is impossible to say exactly how much this actually is as its different from person to person and can depend on things such as how much you have eaten, age, gender, weight and stress levels. The safest option is not to drink at all when driving.

Buying and possessing drugs (including alcohol)

It’s important to understand the law and legislation around buying and possessing alcohol and drugs. There are lots of websites out there to help you understand what you need to know.

There are pretty serious consequences if you are found in possession of drugs, these punishments will vary according to the class of drug. The Misuse of Drugs Act divides drugs into 3 categories:

  • Class A drugs – Cocaine, Ecstasy, Heroin, Magic Mushrooms
  • Class B drugs – Speed, Cannabis
  • Class C drugs – Ketamine, some tranquillisers like Temazepam