Commonly Asked Questions


“Should I drink alcohol or not?”

The earlier a person starts drinking alcohol the greater the risk of changing the development of the brain. This can lead to problems with memory and learning, and increases the risk of having alcohol-related problems later in life. [1]

While you can legally consume and purchase alcohol at 18 years of age in Australia, you still have a choice to delay drinking while your brain continues to mature. Because the brain doesn’t fully mature until the early twenties, it is worth considering delaying the use of alcohol for as long as possible.

There are a number of things to consider when making the decision about whether to drink or not.

  • In the ACT, the number of young people aged 12 to 17 years choosing not to drink alcohol is increasing. In 2002, 1 in 10 people reported not having ever consumed alcohol. In 2011 this number increased to over 1 in 4 young people having never consumed alcohol. [2]
  • Choosing to drink alcohol while the brain is still maturing can lead you to take risks that you might not choose to do at other times of your life. For example, getting into a car with someone driving who has been drinking or having unprotected sex.
  • In addition to this trend, the number of young people aged 12 to 17 drinking at risky levels on single occasions has also decreased and is at the lowest levels since 1996. [2]


“Why should I care when lots of people I know are drinking alcohol?”

Just because people you know are drinking doesn’t mean you have to as well. You have a right to make your own decisions about your body and how you treat it. Young people often overestimate how much, and how many of their friends are drinking.

Young people who regularly drink alcohol through their teenage years and into their early twenties are at risk of damaging their brain. This can lead to problems with:

  • Forming and retrieving memories which can affect learning.
  • Experiencing blackouts where you are unable to remember what you have done.
  • A decrease in problem solving abilities and difficulty maintaining attention.
  • Alcohol dependence later in life.

These negative effects of alcohol use may affect your school grades and can impact on your career path options. [1]

To increase your ability to learn, the best option is to delay drinking alcohol as long as possible.

[1] Monti, P.M., Miranda, R., Nixon, K., Sher, K.J., Swartzwelder, H.S., Tapert, S.F., White, A. & Crews, F. (2010). Adolescence: Booze, Brains, and Behavior. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 29(2):207–220.

[2] ACT Health. (2013). Substance use and other health-related behaviours among ACT secondary students: results of the 2011 ACT Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug Survey. ACT Government: Canberra