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When consumed in excess, alcohol can become an addiction and cause a number of other health risks.


Alcohol is the most commonly used, potentially addictive substance. Chronic and heavy drinking can cause a number of health problems including cancer, heart disease, liver damage, and brain and nervous system problems. Drinking in excess, especially at an early age can also lead to addiction. The earlier in life an individual consumes alcohol, the more likely they are to develop an alcohol use disorder later in life. More immediate risks include alcohol poisoning and alcohol overdose.



Warning Signs


  • Change in attitude and/or personality
  • Isolation and secretive behavior, avoiding family and/or friends
  • Change in friends, hobbies, activities and/or sports
  • Drops in grades or performance at work
  • Moodiness, irritability, nervousness, giddiness
  • Lack of concentration and poor short term memory.


  • The smell of alcohol on clothes/breath
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Slurred speech


Underage Drinking

Drinking alcohol from an early age and in excess increases your risk of developing various cancers, including cancers of the mouth, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, liver, and breast. Drinking early and in excess can also lead to addiction. In fact, the earlier in life a person begins to use alcohol, the more likely they are to develop alcohol use disorder.

Underage drinking can also have a number of serious, more immediate consequences. Teens who drink are more likely to:

  • Be involved in car crashes, experience alcohol poisoning, commit or fall victim to murder or suicide.
  • Become victims or perpetrators of physical or sexual assault, compared to peers who do not drink.
  • Have run-ins with the law, face trouble in school or take part in other potentially addictive behaviors such as drug use or gambling.
To report the illegal purchase or consumption of alcoholic beverages by minors by calling 1-866-UNDER 21. It's free and confidential.

Impaired Driving

The New York State Zero Tolerance law applies to a person under age 21 who operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .02% or more but not more than .07%.

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) and How You May Be Charged
.02% or more
but not more than .07%
Driving after having consumed alcohol
(a zero tolerance violation)
Administrative Hearing
more than .05% and less than .08% Driving while ability is impaired by alcohol (DWAI) Criminal Court
.08% or more Driving while intoxicated (DWI) Criminal Court


If you refuse to take a breath test, you will be subject to a license revocation of at least one year.


Impaired Driving Offenders

New York State Residents

Impaired Driving Program Participants may be required to undergo screening and assessment or enter treatment services.

Out-of-State Residents 

Locate authorized DUI/DWI screening, assessment or treatment providers in your state of residence by searching Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Treatment Locator

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Alcohol consumption among pregnant women is a public health concern. There is no amount or type of alcohol which is safe to drink during pregnancy. There is no time during your pregnancy in which it is safe to drink. Exposure to any amount of alcohol in the womb can result in a diagnosis of a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) with life-long consequences.

Women who are pregnant or trying to conceive should refrain from drinking alcohol. Continued alcohol consumption increases the risk of FASD and can cause birth defects, developmental disabilities, and other adverse pregnancy outcomes. Children that have been exposed to alcohol or other substances in the womb have been found to experience physical, mental and behavioral issues later in life. 

If you are drinking while pregnant and feel you cannot stop, or if you have a dependency or addiction, call the OASAS HOPEline today to learn about your treatment options. 

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders include:

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
  • Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND)
  • Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD)
  • Neurobehavioral Disorder Associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure (ND-PAE)

Get Help

For help with an alcohol use disorder, call the New York State Hopeline for help, hope, and referrals. Find addiction treatment near you using the Treatment Availability Dashboard Tool or search for a program or provider using the look-up tool.


FIND Treatment