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Keep Teens Safe During Prom and Graduation Season Talk to Them About Binge Drinking

Silver Hill Hospital

Prom and graduation season is a time for celebration – and, unfortunately, also a time when underage drinking develops into binge drinking by some teenagers. Adults tend to drink more often than young people, but when young people drink they binge and consume more; an average of five drinks on one occasion.
“It’s critically important that parents take the initiative and have a conversation with their teens about the very serious risks associated with binge drinking,” says Dr. Aaron Krasner. “There is a lot of temptation at this time of year to partake in underage drinking at graduation parties, proms and other end-of-year celebrations. Teens need to understand how one or two drinks can lead to dangerous binge drinking, which has potentially serious long-term consequences that can be a lot worse than a hangover the next morning.”

According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH):

  • 35.1% of 15-year-olds report that they have had at least 1 drink in their lives.
  • About 8.7 million people ages 12–20 (22.7% of this age group) reported drinking alcohol in the past month
  • Approximately 5.4 million people (about 14.2%) ages 12–20 engaged in binge drinking
  • Approximately 1.4 million people (about 3.7%) ages 12–20 engaged in heavy drinking (4.6 percent of males and 2.7 percent of females)
  • 5,000 people under age 21 die each year from alcohol-related car crashes, homicides, suicides, alcohol poisoning, and other injuries such as falls, burns, and drowning
  • More than 190,000 people under age 21 visited an emergency room for alcohol-related injuries in 2008 alone

The Dangers of Underage Drinking
What harm can a drink here and there do? It can lead to deadly consequences. Alcohol is the number one drug of choice for America’s youth, and is more likely to kill young people than all illegal drugs combined. Due to the large amounts of alcohol consumed during a binge, alcohol poising, which can shut down the automatic, involuntary drive to breathe, is one of the greatest dangers. In addition to the possibility of developing a dependence or addiction, alcohol can lead to other risky behaviors such as unsafe sex, sexual abuse, assault, accidental injury and drunk driving.

Talking to Your Teen
Although the conversation might feel uncomfortable, it’s a must. Keep in mind that it should be an open discussion, not a lecture. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Ask your teen what they know about alcohol and how they feel about underage drinking
  • Share the facts listed above and them know how dangerous alcohol can be, especially when binging
  • Give them good reasons for why they shouldn’t drink—Legal consequences, physical dangers, potential for developing an addiction, family history of alcoholism
  • Explain that alcohol isn’t as glamorous as it is presented in the media
  • Brainstorm ways to deal with peer pressure and let them know that you will always be there to pick them up (without punishment) if they find themselves in a potentially dangerous situation

During prom and graduation season it’s also important for parents to be responsible when hosting parties. Keep your liquor cabinet locked and do not serve minors under any circumstances. Not only is it dangerous, but it’s illegal and can land you in jail. Make sure you speak with other parents to ensure they feel the same way about underage drinking before dropping your child off at a party.

Warning Signs of Underage Drinking
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism urges parents and teachers to pay attention to the following warning signs that may indicate underage drinking:


  • Academic and/or behavioral problems in school
  • Changing groups of friends
  • Less interest in activities and/or appearance
  • Finding alcohol among a young person’s things or smelling alcohol on their breath
  • Slurred speech
  • Coordination problems
  • Memory and/or concentration problems