What is alcohol?

Wasted. Drunk. Tipsy. Trashed. These are just some of the effects alcohol can have on you if you consume too much at once. Alcohol is a drug. If you are going to drink, it’s important to know what alcohol is and how it can alter your behaviour, your body – and even your brain. It’s also addictive, so it can have pretty big effects on your health.

What is alcohol?

Beer, wine, spirits (like rum or vodka) – these are all everyday types of alcohol. Alcoholic drinks have an ingredient called ethyl alcohol, which is what makes you drunk (another term for drunk is ‘intoxicated’).  Some drinks have more ethyl alcohol than others. To know how much alcohol a drink contains, always read the label.

Due to the different ways that alcohol can affect people, there is no amount of alcohol that can be said to be safe for everyone. People choosing to drink must realise that there will always be some risk to their health and well-being.

What is the legal age for drinking?

There are two types of laws governing underage drinking:

1. Australian Liquor Laws

The legal drinking age in Australia is 18 years. It is against the law in all states and territories for those under 18 years to buy alcohol or drink alcohol in licensed premises (like restaurants or bars) or in public places.

2. Secondary Supply Laws

The laws regarding the supply of alcohol to under 18 year olds differ between states and territories.  Your parents/or guardians need to be aware of these changes – particularly in regard to common occurrences such as hosting a teenage party in the family home or staying over at a friend’s place.

What happens if your parents or guardians give you alcohol before you turn 18 years of age?

If your parents or guardians are found to be supplying alcohol to under 18s, in some states this could lead to a really expensive fine (yikes!).

Secondary Supply Laws are different in each state and territory. You need to be aware of the laws in effect where you live. Click on the relevant link below to find out more:

What is a standard drink in Australia?

A standard drink is one drink which contains 10 grams of alcohol. It can be really hard to keep track of how many standard drinks you have consumed, as often drink sizes can differ greatly. For example an average bottle of beer is one and a half standard drinks.

To understand the alcohol content of different drinks better, check out this standard drink calculator (you may need to scroll down).

An image of a group of women clinking together various drinks.
How to minimise your risks when drinking alcohol:
  • Keep an eye on your drink. Don’t leave your drink unattended.
  • Eat before or while you are drinking (it’s a good idea to at least eat a small meal beforehand or have snacks while drinking alcohol)
  • Plan safe transport home
  • If you participate in rounds of drinks try to include some non-alcoholic drinks (soda & lime, anyone?)
  • Set limits for yourself and stick to them (for instance, two drinks only)
  • Start with non-alcoholic drinks, like water or soft-drink and alternate with alcoholic drinks
  • Drink slowly
  • Try drinks with a lower alcohol content (light beer is a great alternative)
Alcohol + Sex? Um…maybe not!

Mixing alcohol with sex can lead to coordination issues and a lack of consent. Consent involves ongoing communication, not just the absence of ‘no’. And if you’re drunk, your ability to make decisions is impaired, which means you can’t give consent freely.

In Australia, if alcohol affects your ability to agree to sex, you’re considered unable to give consent. Unwanted sexual experiences are common among young people, and alcohol is often involved. 

  • If you are drunk, you cannot give consent
  • Engaging sexually with someone too drunk or high is unconsensual — this is sexual assault
  • If this happens to you, it’s never your fault; the responsibility lies with the perpetrator.
Learn more
  • For more info about your rights and consent laws, head to Lawstuff
  • You can also read more about sex and consent here.
Where to get help

If you are struggling with alcohol, talk to someone you trust about it. 

  • Talk to a parent, teacher or school counsellor
  • Speak to a counsellor on the phone or online at eHeadspace
  • Call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015 for confidential addiction support

Need someone to talk to? Free, confidential support is available.

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We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which Rosie has been created, the Wurundjeri Woiwurrung people of the Kulin Nation, and pay our respects to elders past and present. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.

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