As the school year ends, many young students prepare to head off to college while their younger cohorts look forward to becoming the big fish in the high school pond. While these are exciting times both for the students and their parents, it is important to be aware of a very serious danger that is affecting our youth at an alarming rate: underage drinking.
Here are some startling statistics: According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21 percent of adolescents aged 12-17 years had at least one drink of alcohol in the past 30 days when surveyed. Ten percent of 12-17-year-olds had five or more drinks in a two-hour period, which is known as binge drinking. In fact, kids aged 12-20 drink 11 percent of all the alcohol consumed in the United States, and over 90 percent of that is done by binge drinking! One CDC survey found that during the past 30 days, 42 percent of high school students drank some amount of alcohol, while 24 percent engaged in binge drinking. Then, 10 percent drove after drinking and 28 percent admitted they had been a passenger in a vehicle operated by a drunk driver.
Contributing greatly to the problem is the fact that liquor is increasingly chosen over beer, and many liquor drinks are being flavored by juice and combined with caffeine. Parade published an excellent article on the issue, citing Dr. Michael Siegel, a Boston University School of Public Health professor, who found that high school kids are increasingly choosing liquor over beer for drinking games. Many of these liquor drinks are combined into sweet-flavored energy drinks, keeping the kids awake and drinking longer, and getting them drunk faster.
Parents can and should take an active role in preventing their adolescents and young adults from falling prey to the potentially deadly consequences of underage drinking. Parade suggests a few key tips that will help:
First, know the warning signs. These may include sudden trouble with school, behavioral changes, a new social group, and problems with memory and concentration.
Second, engage your children in conversation. Research indicates that kids are more responsive to parents who combine clear ground rules and expectations with an open conversation that establishes warmth and support. Ask about their thoughts and experiences, discuss personal values, and evaluate the associated risks.
Third, it may be helpful to establish a code word. This is a word or phrase that can be said over the phone that will alert you to come and get your kids out of an uncomfortable situation, while saving them the embarrassment of asking directly in front of their friends.
Finally, tell your kids to call 911 if someone who has been drinking appears to be sleeping and cannot be awakened.
As a wrongful death, personal injury lawyer in Virginia Beach, Virginia (VA), I have seen too many instances where a young, potential-filled life was tragically stolen away by the peer pressure to binge drink.