“Supervising” Drunk Teens Is Not Keeping Them Safe

“Supervising” Drunk Teens Is Not Keeping Them Safe

This is the third installment of a blog series that will dispel the 10 most common and stubborn myths parents believe about exposing children to alcohol. This time we will tackle big, fat myths #3 and #4:

Since teens are going to drink no matter what we say, we might as well have them drink at our homes where we can keep an eye on them and take the car keys away.   Yikes!  This is not only a myth, but indeed a very dangerous belief system.  Taking care of the external physical landscape does not make the internal landscape of a vulnerable adolescent safe.  Teens drinking in your home could be on medications you are unaware of that will interact negatively with alcohol.  They may come from homes where there is a history of alcoholism and addiction and be particularly at risk – they may cross the line from weekend binge drinker to alcoholic in your basement that night.  Bear in mind that only adults have adult brains.  A kid brain is a thing of beauty and children are especially gifted at all forms of learning. Addiction is a learning process and it can develop swiftly and easily in a young person who has not quite mastered mood regulation. There are many other behaviors that don’t involve driving that could result in alcohol related injury or even death.  Keeping an eye on a bunch of drunk kids is a daunting task – the likelihood of unsafe sexual activity and violence amongst the teens increases dramatically when alcohol is present. Lastly, a friendly reminder – it’s against the law and the liability issues are profound.

Thank Goodness my teen is only drinking and not doing drugs.  Alcohol is a powerful central nervous depressant and one of the most potent drugs available.  Let’s not forget that alcohol (beer, actually) causes more teen deaths than all illegal drugs combined.  Alcohol is especially confusing to teens, as they understand that it can be used safely by adults and don’t see why it is regulated in such a way that they are not allowed to purchase or use it – many teens (and adults) will claim that it is this “forbidden fruit” aspect that makes drinking so attractive.  This may partially explain alcohol’s allure the first time a teen drinks, but kids with established drinking patterns are long past this initial reason and have settled into a relationship with alcohol.  Lowering or eliminating the drinking age would only turn the forbidden fruit into low hanging fruit that’s easy to pick!  Reducing access to alcohol reduces use and creates a safer environment for everybody.

Tune in next week for big, fat myth #5:If we were like the Europeans and introduced alcohol at a young age, kids would see it as no big deal and drink moderately

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