Families and friends of upcoming graduates: Celebrations often involve parties, and parties often include alcohol. Before your high school seniors begin their parties, take the time to talk with them about keeping events alcohol-free — it just may save a life.

No amount of underage drinking is legal or safe. And we know that any underage drinking can lead to consuming too much alcohol, which may result in poor decisions, injuries, alcohol overdose and possibly death.

A teenager’s brain is still developing, and it’s very sensitive to alcohol’s effects on judgment and decision-making. Tragedies can — and do — happen, so underage drinking shouldn’t be a part of any end-of-year celebration.

If you’re asked to explain the reasons behind your rules, you can describe the effects of alcohol on the human body. When people drink alcohol, they may temporarily feel elated and happy, but they shouldn’t be fooled. As blood alcohol level rises, the effects on the body — and the potential risks — multiply.

Inhibitions and memory become affected, so people may say and do things that they will regret later and possibly not remember doing at all. Decision-making skills are affected, so people may be at greater risk for driving under the influence — and risking an alcohol-related traffic crash — or making unwise decisions about sex.

Aggression can increase, potentially leading to everything from verbal abuse to physical fights. Coordination and physical control are also impacted. When drinking leads to loss of balance, slurred speech and blurred vision, even normal activities can become more dangerous.

Consuming a dangerously high amount of alcohol can also lead to alcohol overdose and death. When people drink too much, they may eventually pass out (lose consciousness). Reflexes like gagging and breathing can be suppressed. That means people who have had too much alcohol could vomit and choke, or just stop breathing completely.

Vulnerability to overdose increases if the teen is already on a sedative-hypnotic (such as Valium, Xanax or Benadryl) or pain medication.

Drinking to celebrate graduation can result in vandalism, arrests, sexual assaults, injuries and trips to the emergency room, alcohol-related traffic crashes and worse. Drinking by teens can put them — and their friends — in real danger.


It’s critical to talk with your graduate because research shows that parents do make a difference. By serving as a positive role model, talking with other parents and your teens, supervising parties to make sure no alcohol is served, and supporting alcohol-free school celebrations, you can help prevent a life-changing mistake. Tell your graduate to play it safe and party right — and alcohol-free — at graduation. Because a well-deserved celebration shouldn’t end in tragedy.

For more information, visit www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov.

Mary Beth Trevino is coordinator of the Bay Area Council on Drugs and Alcohol.


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(1) comment

Paula Flinn

Thank you for this article. If it helps save one life, it is worth it.

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