Thursday, December 20, 2012

Safety Tips: Stopping Underage Drinking During the Holidays

The holidays are a festive time when families and friends gather together to celebrate the season.  Adults take a few days off from work to spend time and bond with vacationing children thrilled to be away from school.  

During a time often filled with laughter and cheer, it's easy to forget that the holidays is also a time when alcohol can be everywhere and easily accessible to young people.  It is also a time when the consequences of drinking can be devastating:

Hospital emergency department visits involving underage drinking increased more than 250% on New Year’s Day in 2009 compared to other days.

Teens and young adults who drink often do so excessively and are at risk for serious consequences; these include motor vehicle accidents, unplanned and unprotected sexual activity, and even alcohol poisoning.

Here are a few helpful tips to keep your kids safe during the holidays:

Tips for parents during the holiday season:

Be consistent — Send a consistent message to your teen that drinking before the age of 21 is not acceptable.

Ask - Know where your teen is going. Who will be there? Will alcohol or other drugs be present? Will adults be home? Do those adults tolerate drinking in their home? Often, your teen will mumble a response or appear outraged that you do not trust him- but asking shows that you care.

Plan for transportation — Talk to your teen about how dangerous it is to ride with a driver who has been drinking and to NEVER drink and drive. Alarmingly, 24% of high school students in 2011 reported having ridden in a car within the last 30 days with a driver who had been drinking alcohol. Share with your teen that alcohol affects a person as soon as they begin drinking and that someone doesn’t need to be ‘drunk’ to be too impaired to drive. Plan with your teen how they will get home. Offer to drive your teen home, or provide resources for driver services including taxi companies or a car service. Some areas also offer sober driver programs for the well-being of the community. Emphasize that safety is the first priority. Recommend public transportation if it is available and safe in your area.

Practice talking points — Practice with your teen situations where they may be pressured to drink. Review how to call for emergency assistance if a partygoer needs medical attention. Reinforce that safety, not punishment, is of the highest concern.

Be a role model — Drink responsibly. Do not pressure other adults to drink at functions if they decline a drink. Never drive after drinking. Never ride with a driver who has been drinking.

Tips to share with your teens during the holiday season:

Remember, underage drinking is illegal and can be dangerous. Often teens do stupid and risky things when intoxicated.

If you are at a party where alcohol is present, make your own non-alcohol drinks and do not leave your drink unattended. An untracked drink could be tampered with; alcohol or other drugs, including so-called “date rape drugs,” may be mixed into your drink without your knowledge.

Don’t participate in drinking games or contests. Dangerous amounts of alcohol are often ingested in connection with these competitions;

Use a buddy system. If you are going to a party, bring friends with you. Also, make sure all of your friends leave with you. Individuals who remain alone at a party are vulnerable to increased drinking, blackouts, and sexual assault.

Never drive after drinking. Impaired driving begins when drinking begins. It is illegal to drive with a 0.08% blood alcohol concentration. However, many states have also enacted “Zero Tolerance Laws,” where it is illegal for minors to drive with even a trace amount of alcohol in their bloodstream. Even if you do not crash, you could get pulled over, arrested and have your license revoked.

Never get into a car with a driver who has been drinking. Apply this rule to your friends too - try not to let your friends drive if they have been drinking or get into a car with someone who has been drinking.

Plan ahead about your transportation home. Appoint a designated driver who will not drink. Or chip in with friends to share the cost of a taxi or car service home. Consider public transportation if it is available and safe in your neighborhood.

If a friend is in trouble, do not hesitate to get help. If a person is unconscious and not breathing normally, call an ambulance immediately. Roll an unconscious person onto their side to minimize choking on vomit. Do not try to “sober them up” with a cold shower, slapping, or coffee. Know that ‘waiting it out’ could be dangerous as well. These methods will not work and may only delay lifesaving medical treatment.

Remember that the holiday season should be a time to enjoy your family and friends. But do it safely!

Source: Health Alliance on Alcohol

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