A group of graduates tosses their caps in the air in front of an academic building

The following column also appeared in the Home News Tribune.

Before your graduate celebrates, talk with them about keeping events alcohol-free. It may save a life! No amount of underage drinking is legal or safe. And we know that 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 is very sensitive to alcohol’s effects on judgment and decision-making. Tragedies can—and do—happen, so underage drinking should not be a part of any end-of-year celebration.

Remember – The effects of alcohol can be deceptive

If you are 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 should not 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 unsafe 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. The risk of an overdose can increase if alcohol is consumed while taking opioids or sedative hypnotics such as sleep and anti-anxiety medications. Combining these medications with alcohol can be dangerous and life-threatening.

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. Ask them to consider this question: Is that any way to celebrate?

The Solution – Talk with your graduate – It is 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 Much of the information provided in the column came from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, You can check them out at https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/. If you know of someone who needs information and Referral to resources, please call our offices at 732-254.3344. You can also get referrals 24 hours every day by simply going to our online Help Tool at https://wellspringprevention.org/help-tool.

Ezra Helfand is CEO/Executive Director of the Wellspring Center for Prevention. You can reach him at ezra.helfand@wcpnj.org.

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