Alcohol and Adolescence: A Cocktail for Disaster

Seven ways to keep teens safe this holiday season.

Posted Dec 21, 2016

Luciano De polo/Deposit Photos
Source: Luciano De polo/Deposit Photos

It’s the holiday season and that means winter vacation for teens across the nation. The winter break also means more spare time, less rules and structure, and for some, more time to get into trouble. Many teens are looking forward to sleeping in late, hitting the mall, catching that new blockbuster movie, and most importantly – hanging out with friends. No doubt about it, for a teen, a two or three week break can be a time for celebrating more than just the holidays.

Tis the season for teens to party and have fun, but, it’s also a time for impulsivity, risk taking and experimentation. According to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), on an average December day,  more than 11,000 young people, aged 12 to 17, will drink alcohol for the first time. Sadly, many of those youth won’t ring in the new year, as approximately 400 young people under age 21 die from alcohol-related causes every month. Also teens make poor decisions about drinking and driving. Neglectfully, many youth get behind the wheel intoxicated or hop in the car with an impaired driver. Alcohol is implicated in more than a third of driver fatalities resulting from automobile accidents in adolescents ages 15 to 20. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 10% of high school students drank alcohol and drove in 2013 and 22 percent rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol. Studies show teen drivers (ages 16-20) are 17 times more likely to be in a crash resulting in death when they have a blood alcohol concentration of .08% than when they have had nothing to drink at all. Below are some more sobering statistics from the CDC:

  • In 2012, 23% of drivers ages 15 to 20 involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes had been drinking.
  • In 2013, 22% of teens reported that within the previous month, they rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.
  • In 2012, 71% of drivers ages 15 to 20 were killed in motor vehicle crashes after drinking and driving were not wearing a seat belt.
  • In 2012, 49% of teen deaths from motor vehicle crashes occurred between 3 p.m. and midnight.
Pablo Hidalgo/Deposit Photos
Source: Pablo Hidalgo/Deposit Photos

So how do we keep teens safe this winter break? Below are seven ways to keep teens safe this holiday season:

  1. Set clear rules and have high expectations - let your teen know your stance on drinking.
  2. Discuss upcoming parties and establish check-in times.
  3. Review the law and your rules on driving under the influence.
  4. Discuss the dangers of getting into a car with anyone who has been drinking.
  5. Ask the six essential questions, before your teen heads out the door:

#1 Where are you going?

#2 What are you going to be doing?

#3 Who are you going to be with?

#4 Who is driving?

#5 When will you be home?

#6 What are the phone numbers of the friend's you will be with and what is one of their parent’s number?

6. Give your teen a “no questions asked” out. Let your teen know that that you are available to give them or their friend a free ride home with “no questions asked” if they call you. Sure, you can discuss what happened later, but at the time of need, teens need to know they have a trusted adult they can call upon. Plus, you want your teen to know you are always a phone call or text away.

7. Come up with a safety code. If your teen, is in trouble and can’t call to explain what’s going on, come up with a texting code word that signals help is needed.

With the holiday season in full swing, it is important to let your teen know where you stand on alcohol consumption. The holidays are supposed to be a time of spreading good cheer, unfortunately, in our society, we have linked being merry and bright with alcohol consumption. Let's teach teens that you don’t have to drink to have a good time because one thing is certain, alcoholic consumption and adolescence is a cocktail for disaster.

Nadja Blume/Deposit Photos
Source: Nadja Blume/Deposit Photos

Have a happy and safe holiday season!