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Among all groups, the proportion of school pupils who have ever had an alcoholic drink has decreased again since 2013. However, there has been an increase in the proportion of 13-year-old girls and boys who reported being drunk in the last week. 

Trends in drinking in the last week, by age and gender (1990-2015)


Long term trends

Drinking in the last week has fluctuated since 1990 but has been decreasing, for the most part, since 2002. After a large decrease in prevalence between 2010 and 2013, drinking in the last week has remained unchanged between 2013 and 2015, with the exception of a small decrease among 15 year old boys: 19% drank in the last week in 2013, compared with 16% in 2015.




If you are looking to understand age limits and why they exist, click here.

You’re away from home for the first time.  You can stay out as late as you want, do whatever you want. You’re free – and it’s fun. The last thing you want is for a nasty incident to spoil your new-found freedom. 

Who wants a drunken student night out ending with lost phones, purses, wallets or, worse, a fight or even a visit to A&E? 

Colleges and universities are really well geared up to look after their students. Your Student Union will have a Welfare Officerthere’ll be on-campus nurses and doctors, and there’s lots of free advice available to help keep you safe during your studies. 

But to be really safe, students also need to take responsibility for themselves and their mates. So on a night out, there are just a few really easy steps you can take to make sure the night goes off without incident. 

Drinkaware*provides some key steps to help you stay safe with alcohol at college or university 

Knowing your limits:

The alcohol unit guidelines(i.e. not drinking more than 14 units a week) are in place to help protect you and reduce the risk of long and short-term harms resulting from drinking alcohol  

The more you drink, the less able you will be to spot dangerous situations, and the greater the chance that you might do something risky. Alcohol poisoning, from drinking large quantities of alcohol, is both very unpleasant and can be dangerousStick to the guidelines and you are less likely to suffer from this, and more likely to be in a position to help a friend who has drunk too much. 

It is sometimes difficult to know how many units of alcohol are in a particular drink, or to keep track of how many units you are drinking. Have a look at this nifty Drinkaware* unit calculator to help you.

*DRiNKLiNK has no affiliation with Drinkaware but we found this nifty unit calculator during our research and thought some of you may find it helpful.

Don’t drink and drown:

Drinking alcohol seriously affects your ability to get yourself out of trouble. 

Alcohol numbs the senses, particularly sight, hearing and touch, and also affects muscle coordination and spatial awareness. These effects can make swimming very difficult. 

According to The Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS)a quarter of all adult drowning victims have alcohol in their bloodstream. The RLSS has a dedicated Don’t Drink and Drown campaign to try and reduce the high number of college and university students who drown after drinking.  

So, however tempting it may be to take a dip or horse around near water after a few drinks, please resist this urge and act responsibly near water after drinking alcohol. 

Watch your drink:

Having your drink spiked with alcohol or drugs can be a scary experience and can make you vulnerable.   

The symptoms of drink spiking vary depending on the individual or the substance(s) used. You may not notice a difference to the taste of your drink and may simply feel sick or drowsy. But if you start to feel strange soon after a drink, or seem to be getting drunk more quickly than usual, your drink may have been spiked. If you suspect that this has happened to you, tell a member of security or bar staff straight away. If you are with somebody whose drink may have been spiked and their condition deteriorates, call 999 and ask for an ambulance.  

If you think your drink may have been spiked, and if you can, keep what is left of your drink. Should you end up under medical care, this can provide valuable information to medical staff on what substance has been added to your drink.  

 Many people don’t report an incident of drink spiking, because some drugs commonly used to spike drinks can cause unconsciousness and affect memory, so the victim simply may not remember what happened. If you suspect you may have been assaulted, try to tell someone you trust, and go to the Police, local GP or hospital. If you don’t feel able to do this straight away, you can call the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre on 0808 802 9999 (12 – 2.30pm and 7-9.30pm every day). 

To reduce the risk of having your drink spiked, it is good to get into the habit of not leaving your drink unattended when you go to the toilet or to dance. Take it with you to the dance floor if you can, or ask a friend who will be staying at the table to look after your drink for you.  

And of course, always drink within the guidelines (and your own limits) and you’ll be in the best position to keep you and your friends safe. 


Know the limits:

Not quite 18? It’s a common challenge. Click here to find out more about age limits and why they are important.  


*DRiNKLiNK has no affiliation with Drinkaware. 

GIRFEC National Practice Model provides a framework for teachers, police, social work, doctors, etc. on how to protect children and their families.

This model aims to provide ‘a consistent way for an agency or organisation to construct a plan and take appropriate action to support children, young people and their families.’ It can be used in a single or multi-agency context, and does three things:  

  • Provides a framework to help understand the needs of the child or young person  
  • Involves children, young people and their families in information-gathering and action-planning.  
  • From an understanding of a child’s or young person’s needs, identifies the key concerns that need to be addressed.  

How does it protect children?

GIRFEC is the national approach in Scotland to improving outcomes and supporting the wellbeing of our children and young people.

GIRFEC puts the rights and wellbeing of children and young people at the heart of the services that support them – such as early years services, schools, and the NHS. This ensures that, by offering the right help, at the right time, from the right people, everyone – including parents – is working together to improve outcomes for a child or young person..

The Scottish Government does a great job of explaining GIRFEC.

If you are concerned about a child and the effect alcohol is having on their life, you can find out about your local GIRFEC service here.

Observing and recording  

There are eight ‘wellbeing indicators’ represented by the ‘wellbeing wheel’ and the acronym SHANARRI. These are the key areas in which it is recognised that children and young people should progress to do well in their lives now and in the future. 

SHANARRI means that a child or young person is… 

  • Safe 
  • Healthy 
  • Achieving 
  • Nurtured 
  • Active 
  • Respected 
  • Responsible 
  • Included 

Recording information – for example, observations and events – under these eight indicators can help practitioners to identify concerns and priorities, structure information and put together a child’s plan.  

Gathering information about children and young people  

The Five Questions 

Any practitioner who is concerned about a child or young person should ask five questions:  

  • What is getting in the way of this child or young person’s wellbeing? 
  • Do I have all the information I need to help this child or young person? 
  • What can I do now to help this child or young person? 
  • What can my agency do to help this child or young person? 
  • What additional help, if any, may be needed from others? 

The process of gathering, structuring and analysing information about children and young people can be assisted by using two tools: 

The My World Triangle  

The My World Triangle is simply a tool to help children/young people and practitioners – including lead professionals and named persons – to think about the whole world of the child or young person.  


The My World Triangle can help practitioners to consider:  

  • The growth and development of a child or young person  
  • The child or young person’s needs in relation to the people looking after them 
  • How family, friends and the wider community impact on a child or young person  

This tool is helpful in two ways: 

  1. Encouraging children and young people to reflect on their lives 
  2. Assisting practitioners in gathering information on areas of strength and concern within the child’s or young person’s world, looking at things like health, learning, family life and behaviour.    

The Resilience Matrix 

Resilience refers to the ability to adapt in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threat or stress – to be able to ‘bounce back.’ This quality can be particularly useful for children and young people in dealing with personal and family difficulties.  

There are three building blocks of resilience (Groteberg, 1997):   

  1. A secure base
  2. Self-esteem
  3. Self-efficacy 

What do these mean?    

  1. A secure base 


  • people around me I trust and who love me no matter what 
  • people who set limits for me so I know when to stop before there is danger or trouble 
  • people who show me how to do things right by the way they do things 
  • people who want me to learn to do things on my own 
  • people who help me when I am sick, in danger, or need to learn 


  1. Self-esteem 


  • a person other people can like and love 
  • a person who is happy to do nice things for others and able to show my concern 
  • a person who is respectful of myself and of others 
  • a person who is willing to be responsible for what I do 
  • a person who is sure that in the end things will be alright 


  1. Self-efficacy

I CAN:  

  • talk to other people about the things that frighten or bother me 
  • find ways to solve the problems I might face 
  • control myself when I feel like doing something that’s not right, or that’s dangerous 
  • figure out when it is a good time to talk to someone, or to take action 
  • find someone to help me when I need it 

Organising information about children and young people  

Agencies which work with children and young people and record information about them should organise this information in line with the GIRFEC National Practice Model 

A child’s plan  

A child’s plan can be evolved by multiple agencies working together, and aims to improve a child’s wellbeing.   

A plan should include, and record, the following 

  • reasons  
  • partners  
  • the views of the child/young person and their parents/carers 
  • the child or young person’s needs 
  • actions to be taken to improve a child or young person’s circumstances, including timescales 
  • resources to be provided 
  • contingency plans 
  • how the plan will be reviewed  
  • Lead Professional arrangements  
  • any compulsory measures  

The review process should ask:  

  • What has improved in the child or young person’s circumstances? 
  • What has got worse, if anything?  
  • Have the outcomes been achieved? 
  • What, if anything, needs to be changed in the plan?   
  • Can the plan be continued within the existing environment? 

You can find more information here. 

Financial Aid

We understand that you may be under financial pressure. The government has ways to support you financially so don’t hesitate to visit our page to find more information about several different sources.

Aberdeen City Council also offers free, impartial and confidential advice regarding money, writing forms, budgeting and debt. More information can be found here.


Why do we need age limits?

The human brain is still in the process of development until the age of 18 or 19, and it may be more susceptible to damage than the adult brain. In adolescents who regularly drink alcohol, parts of the brain important in planning and emotional control have been found to be smaller than expected. 

Drinking 8-10 units of alcohol per day over extended time periods results in some mental inefficiencyat 11-14 units per day, deficits (reduced brain capacity) are present; at 18 or more units per day, harm can be of the severity seen in someone diagnosed with alcoholism. 

Over the age of 65, performance of mental tasks declines less slowly in light and moderate drinkers. However, light and moderate drinking (defined as an occasional 1-2 units) is often associated with other factors which reduce mental decline, such as physical and social activity, a good diet, and better socio-economic status. 

At advanced age, in residential community homes, a ‘social hour’ with a unit of alcohol at bedtime, has been shown to improve mental wellbeing. On the other hand, alcohol is also responsible for falls in the elderly because it affects balance.

The law

At 14 you can go into a pub that has a children’s certificate, accompanied by an adult. However, you can’t drink alcohol and must stay in the garden or family room. 

At 15,   you can go into a pub if accompanied by an adult, but cannot drink alcohol. 

At 16 or 17, and accompanied by an adult, you can drink beer, wine or cider with a table meal, but you are not allowed to buy alcohol. It’s illegal for children under five to drink alcohol. It is illegal for children under 5 to drink alcohol. 

Between 5 and18, you can legally drink alcohol at home, at a friend’s house or on other private premises. 

Selling alcohol to someone under 18 can lead to a maximum fine of £10,000 for bar staff/managers and shop keepers. 

It is against the law to buy alcohol on behalf of someone under 18 unless in licensed premises.

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