Drugs, alcohol and the law

Alcohol and Young People

It’s illegal for:

  • someone under 18 to buy, attempt to buy, or be sold alcohol
  • a child under 5 to be given alcohol

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 and should be with their parent/carer or in a supervised environment

What happens if I break the law?

If the police catch you drinking then they are likely to take your alcohol away from you and 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.

Every year in the UK, more than 10,000 fines for being drunk and disorderly are issued to young people aged 16 to 19.


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 whilst 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.

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Buying and possessing drugs

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

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, Xanax

Each class has a different penalty, with Class A carrying the most severe and Class C the least.

The actual sentence you’re likely to get will also depend on:

  • The drug involved
  • Any previous criminal record
  • Your personal circumstances (eg. being a single parent)
  • The attitude of the presiding magistrate/judge

Some other drugs are controlled by the Medicines Act – it may not be illegal to possess drugs such as prescription medicines, but supply is still an offence.

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The mix