Graduation is a time to celebrate, but without mixing alcohol.

"Often people do not realize that the same alcohol and other drug dangers and concerns associated with prom season also occur during graduation season," said Cindy Scott, Aberdeen Proving Ground Army Substance Abuse Program prevention coordinator.
Research shows that parents and other respected adults do make a difference. Talking with the graduate about alcohol now could prevent serious problems later.

"But before the graduates party, take the time to talk with them about alcohol and other drugs to include prescription and over-the-counter medicines-it just may save a life," Scott said. "A teenager's brain is still developing and it is very sensitive to alcohol's effects on judgment and decision-making. Tell the graduate to play it safe and party right at graduation. If graduates drink too much, it can mean trips to the emergency room, arrests, and sexual assaults. They could put themselves and their friends in real danger."

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has put together the following information to assists parents and other adults with this important conversation.

Alcohol can be tricky: If graduates drink, they may temporarily feel elated and happy, but they should not be fooled. Ask them to consider these risks:

Their inhibitions and memory soon become affected-so they may say and do things that they will regret and possibly will not remember doing at all.

Their decision-making skills are also affected. They may become restless and aggressive. They may be more at risk for having an alcohol-related traffic crash, getting into fights, trashing a house, or making unwise decisions about sex.

Their physical control may be reduced resulting in loss of balance, slurred speech, and blurred/vision. Normal activities-even crossing a busy intersection-can become truly dangerous.

Alcohol poisoning: Too much alcohol becomes a deadly weapon. Before the celebrations begin, take a few minutes to talk with your graduate about the dangers of alcohol poisoning. They need to understand if they drink enough, they can eventually get sleepy and pass out. Reflexes like gagging and breathing can become suppressed, which means they could vomit and choke to death or just stop breathing. They may even be at risk for alcohol poisoning.

Alcohol suppresses nerves that control involuntary actions such as breathing and the gag reflex, which prevents choking. Even if someone survives an alcohol overdose, he or she can suffer irreversible brain damage. Rapid binge drinking (which often happens on a bet or a dare) is especially dangerous because the victim can drink a fatal dose before losing consciousness.
A person's blood alcohol concentration can continue to rise even while he or she is passed out. Even after someone stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestines continues to enter the blood-stream and circulate throughout the body. A person who appears to be sleeping it off may be in real danger.

Signs of alcohol poisoning: Critical signs of alcohol poisoning include mental confusion, stupor, coma, or the person cannot be roused; vomiting; seizures; slow (fewer than eight breaths per minute) or irregular (10 seconds or more between breaths) breathing; and hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish skin color, and paleness. Know the danger signals. If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning, don't wait for all the critical signs to be present. If you suspect an alcohol overdose, call 911 immediately for help.

"This important advice from NIAAA can provide parents and other adults with factual information for use during this necessary conversation with graduates," Scott said. "While the focus of this article is on graduation, this critical conversation between parents and other respected adults must be repeated often. Being armed with facts and not being afraid to use them is how we can win this fight, for America's youth against substance abuse."

For more information, contact Scott, 410-278-4013, or e-mail Cynthia.Scott1@us.army.mil, or go to www.niaaa.nih.gov.

Page last updated Sat May 16th, 2009 at 13:15