Last week I suggested that teens do not have to binge drink at their prom or graduation and that parents who knowingly support such activities may find themselves in considerable legal hot water if something goes wrong.
This week I’m going to take a different tack.
There are young people who, for whatever reason, have a higher tendency to risky behaviours and who can often influence others to join them. In other words, any high and mighty proclamations we might make as parents, teachers or mentors will fall on some deaf ears. The best we can offer is a little education for young people, so please feel free to cut this article out, photocopy it and give it to every teen you know.
Listen, kids, alcohol is still the most common and dangerous drug available to young people. It is the single most important factor leading to teen deaths, primarily from car accidents, but not exclusively that.
Numerous deaths are attributed to falls, drowning, suicides and poisoning, but alcohol is involved. It is the single most important factor leading to criminal activity.
Alcohol changes how you think; it changes how you act; it changes how your body responds to normal functions that you don’t usually even think about.
In small doses, these changes are minor and very short-term. In larger doses, generally taken by someone who is a chronic alcoholic or someone who is binge drinking, the changes are significant and the consequences can certainly be long-term.
In an ideal world, you and your friends would realize that a great time can be had without alcohol, but you may find yourself, or choose to put yourself in a situation where alcohol is involved.
Think about your own safety and the safety of your friends before you start drinking. Have a plan and make sure there is someone who is going to stay sober enough to follow it.
Here is a quick primer of things you should consider:
1) Never let a friend drive who has been drinking and never get into a car with someone who has been drinking. Take a cab or call an adult to pick you up. You might get grounded, but that’s way better than being dead, seriously injured or in jail for a long time because you caused serious harm to someone else.
2) If you drink more than one drink (a beer, glass of wine/cooler, or mixed drink) in an hour, within 20 minutes your blood alcohol level will approach intoxication levels.
If you drink more than five drinks in less than two hours, you risk alcohol poisoning.
If you eat food and limit yourself to one drink an hour, you might get tipsy, but you likely won’t risk poisoning.
If you’re going to be stupid (like break the law), at least be smart about it.
3) If a friend throws up, have him stop drinking. If he continues to throw up or passes out, call for medical help. He may sleep it off, but he may also die from choking or respiratory failure; don’t be the one to ignore the risk.
4) Someone needs to stay sober. If everyone is drunk, who will respond in an emergency? Allow some of your friends who really don’t want to drink to “be cool” and join the party without criticism. They may just save someone’s life.
5) If anything starts going sideways at a party – strangers show up, fighting breaks out, people become sexually aggressive – call an adult or call the police.
If alcohol is involved, you may not be able to “manage” the situation and someone could be seriously hurt or abused.
You may also be considered an accessory to a crime if you don’t stop something you know is wrong.
The most common statement made by young people when something gets out of control is, “I can’t believe this is happening.”
Keep in mind, if you lose control of your thoughts and actions, things may happen that are unbelievable.
You are not invulnerable.
Be smart; be careful; be a good friend to others.
Graham Hookey is an educator and writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.