New Year’s Eve, Kids, and Drugs

The verdict is in, and it isn’t good: As predicted, the number of alcohol-related incidents involving underage drinkers on New Year’s Eve tops the list in emergency rooms all over the U.S.

Many experts in addiction prevention and treatment may find this to be a “no brainer” since underage drinking and other drug use has long been a serious mental health concern; still, it’s difficult to think that it may be you, your child, or someone else you love that lies bleeding and comatose in an ER surrounded by strangers.

In the December 2010 edition of Readers Digest magazine, ER medical personnel braced for the onslaught of minors, correctly predicting that New Year’s Eve would once again be a bad night for making those dreaded calls to parents that always begin with “This is Dr. ****** in the emergency room…”

The lists of car wrecks, assaults, and overdoses involving children as young as 12 prompt at least three questions by normal adults in the nation:

– Where are they getting alcohol and other drugs?
– Why are they using these substances in excess on December 31st of any given year?
– What can we do about it?

Where do they get it? That minors botain intoxicating substances on the streets of Everytown, USA really is a “no brainer.” They get stuff from other kids, they use fake IDs to get booze in liquor stores, and they nab alcohol and prescription drugs in their own homes by less-than-watchful parents.

Why do they do it? The age-old teenage refrain of “Everybody else is doing it” comes into play here. The sobering (pun intended) fact is that –for real – everybody else really is doing it. Other kids, sure. But kids didn’t invent drug-fueled NYE celebrations, adults did. Kids do what other kids do, but mostly they do what they see adults do – especially their own parents. kids-party

According to Health Watch USA, more and more kids under age 16 have observed their parent(s) using alcohol, prescription drugs, and illegal street drugs like marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin to ring in the new year. Parents, here’s a Dr. Phil quote for you: “What the hell were you thinking?”

What can we do about it? The last question is probably the most disturbing and challenging, and the answer seems way too simplistic, but here it is: Addiction experts from coast to coast tend to agree that adults need to find another way to celebrate American holidays – New Year’s Eve in particular. NYE is singularly associated with hard-drugging “partying like there’s no tomorrow.” If we don’t, there may not even be a tomorrow for our kids. Since kids do what we do, why don’t we all make one of those infamous New Year’s resolutions and keep it: There are a million and one creative ideas to role model sober celebration behavior for our kids. This is crucial if you or your child has experienced an addiction problem.

“Just this once” doesn’t cut it anymore in today’s world where teenagers have plenty of money, drive cars and have cells phones – all of which provide rapid access to intoxicants of every sort. “Just this once” becomes the foundation of a serious addiction problem where you or your child are in peril every single day.

May all of your holidays be responsible and safe ones.