Well being - Drugs & alcohol

Question Sometimes when I go out I get really drunk and can't remember most of the night. I do things I later regret and this is beginning to worry me.

AnswerWhile alcohol is legally available to people over the age of 18, the reality is that many teenagers in Ireland younger than this drink alcohol. People choose to drink for a variety of reasons, it might be because they think it makes them more confident, believe it is a good way to relax or because they reckon everyone else is doing it. Everybody is different though and some people have less tolerance to alcohol than others.

While you might think drinking alcohol is harmless, the truth is that it is bad for your health. Your body is still growing and developing and alcohol can damage you both mentally and physically. Many teenagers don't realise that alcohol is a depressant that works to slow down the body's central nervous system, which regulates body processes such as speaking, co-ordinating movements, body temperature, pulse and breathing.



Drinking too much alcohol in a short period of time (e.g. binge drinking) can result in alcohol poisoning. When this happens your body's processes slow to such an extent that a person could die.or choke on their own vomit.   
The following are some signs that might indicate someone has a problem with alcohol and should seek help:

  • If you suffer from memory loss after drinking alcohol (e.g. blackouts)
  • You regret things you have done or get into trouble when drunk, maybe having accidents, fighting or arguing.
  • Your friends tell you that you drink too much.
  • You binge drink. (that's 5 or more drinks in a row)  
  • You sometimes have to take time off work, school or college because you have a hangover.
  • You've started drinking in secret.
  • You often feel like you need a drink.

It's important to think seriously about your drinking. It's possible you may have an alcohol problem or are at risk of developing a dependency on alcohol later in life. At the very least you are putting yourself in danger of harm. 
Talk with an adult you trust for advice and support. Your local GP or family doctor will also be a useful source of information and help. For more information, check out the Finding Help section.

In an ideal world, if you don't want to drink you should be able to just say no and not need to give an explanation but sometimes its not that easy and friends just won't leave it alone. If that is the case it might help to have an excuse ready, like saying that you have sports or homework to do the next day or that you aren't feeling very well.

Question Some of my friends smoke hash. They say it's a safe way to relax and laugh at me when I say it might be dangerous or lead to addiction.

AnswerYou are right to be concerned and wary of taking any kind of drugs. There are common myths that hash (dope, cannabis, marijuana) is harmless, but these are untrue. Smoking hash can lead to addiction, mental health problems and reduced school performance. It can also increase the risk of you moving onto other ‘harder' drugs. 

While no one is suggesting that one puff will necessarily kill you, one can lead to many more, and that is when problems can arise.

All drugs are harmful to your health as they contain substances that interfere with the way your body works. They alter your body's internal chemical processes, and can result in harmful results such as hallucinations, altered vision, co-ordination and speech, render you unconscious and can even kill you. 

There are many drugs out there such as cocaine, speed, ecstasy, heroin, LSD, PCP and alcohol. People who are addicted will go to great lengths to feed their addiction, often becoming aggressive and breaking the law (e.g. by stealing), and often lose interest in all other aspects of their lives such as friends and work or school.

Your friends have a future to look forward to and need to know the risks they are exposing themselves to.

Signs that may indicate a teenager is experiencing problems with drugs or alcohol use include: 

  • Dropping out of clubs and sports activities
  • Missing classes or leaving school early
  • Ignoring school work and failing exams
  • Erratic and/or aggressive behaviour
  • Gaining or losing a lot of weight
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Stealing money or items to help fund their habits
  • Driving while under the influence
  • Becoming very private or secretive and hiding away from the world
  • Physical signs such as dilated pupils, slurred speech

For more information, check out the Finding Help section below. Useful websites include SpunOut.ieHeadstrong.ie, National Drugs & HIV Helpline (1800 459 459) and www.checkyourself.org


Talk to an adult you trust if you are worried about your friends. There may also be drug counselling/treatment services in your area where you can get information and advice.

Barnardos National Office,
Christchurch Square, Dublin 8

Tel: +353 (0) 1 453 0355 / Callsave: 1850 222 300
Fax: +353 (0) 1 453 0300 / Email: info@barnardos.ie