What is a reasonable age to start drinking or using drugs?

Substance Use   ›   Alcohol  ›   What is a reasonable age to start drinking or using drugs?

If you’re wondering at what age you can start drinking or using drugs, or whether you even have to, read on for our pointers on how to navigate the situation.

During adolescence, your body and brain are changing a lot. Your actions could have consequences for your development. If you do drink, do it in moderation and for the right reasons, and not because you want to forget family, school, or love problems. And be careful not to slide into excessive drinking or using.


Remember that:


  • You’re not allowed to buy alcohol if you’re under 18.
  • Alcohol is generally prohibited in places where young people hang out.
  • Drunk driving is severely punished by law.
  • You should not sell or provide cannabis to a person under 21 years-old.


Even though the law is the law...

People often have their first experiences with alcohol or drugs during their teen years. And sometimes it’s just to try it out, whether at a family party or when socializing with friends.


What if my parents don’t want me to drink or use drugs?

You might be frustrated and feel like your parents are controlling you, especially at a time when you’re craving more freedom. First of all, ask yourself why you want to drink alcohol. Why is it so important to you? And remember that you’re responsible for your own actions, even under the influence. But it’s often your parents who’ll have to pay for the consequences, which may explain their anxiety. Talk about it with them. Why won’t they let you drink? What can you do to reassure them and help them trust you? A calm, open discussion is necessary if you want to understand their decision.


Can I get hooked after trying something once?

The effects of a drug or of alcohol differ from one person to another, depending on the context, and they can change from one occasion to the next. One thing is certain: dependency means more than trying something once. Most importantly, you need to identify the reasons leading you take more of the substance. For example, having a beer at a party isn’t the same as drinking alone to forget a problem… You need to be aware of the feelings you have when you take a drug or a drink.


Do I have to drink?

Not everyone drinks. You’re not forced to and there’s no obligation to have a drink in order to have fun. It’s your decision! You might choose not to drink a drop of alcohol because you know it has risks, you don’t like the taste, you’ve already had a bad experience with it, or you don’t like the person you turn into when you drink. It might also be for religious or legal reasons or out of principle. If you have friends who don’t drink, it might be easier for you to respect your values and choices.