Young people, alcohol and drugs

Alcohol and drugs

Some young people may experiment with drugs and alcohol.


Alcohol is the most widely used drug in Australia.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's (AIHW) 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that 28 per cent of 12 to 17 year olds had consumed a full serve of alcohol.

This is a lot of young people consuming alcohol before the legal age of 18 years. 

Go to the AIHW website to read the survey results

In the Northern Territory, it is illegal to supply alcohol to people aged less than 18 years at any licensed premises.

It is also illegal to supply alcohol to a child in a private home, unless it’s supplied by:

  • a parent, step-parent or guardian
  • or an adult who has the parental rights and responsibilities for the child.

If the supply of this alcohol is not accompanied with ‘responsible supervision’, the supplier can still be prosecuted.

Offenders are liable for a fine of up to $13,300.

Recent studies show that:

  • alcohol can damage the developing adolescent brain, particularly the part that deals with emotions, memory and decision-making
  • alcohol can affect a young person’s learning and problem-solving abilities and contribute to development of mental health problems
  • young people are at risk of alcohol-related harm because they are more likely to drink to excess, binge-drink, take risks and do things they might later regret
  • young people under 15 years are particularly at risk
  • the earlier young people start to drink, the greater the chance they will have problems with alcohol later in life - it’s best to delay drinking for as long as possible.

Alcohol also contributes to the three main causes of teenage death - injury, homicide and suicide.

Although it’s not illegal in the NT for a parent to serve their teenager alcohol within their home, it’s best to delay giving your teen alcohol for as long as possible.


It’s useful to remember that:

  • cannabis (marijuana) is the illegal drug most used by young people
  • of those who try illegal drugs, many won’t go on to use drugs regularly
  • using drugs is not the same as being addicted to drugs
  • in most cases addiction happens over time - although some people become addicted more quickly than others.

Some young people use alcohol or drugs to help them cope with worries or mental health problems.

If you think this could be happening for your child it is important to get help.

Your doctor, counsellor or services at the end of this page are good places to start.

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Last updated: 21 March 2016

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