Dangers of Underage Drinking on Memorial Day

Dangers of Underage Drinking on Memorial Day

Underage Drinking and Drug Use on Memorial Day Weekend: A Parent/Educator Alert

Memorial Day is a time for solemn observation as we honor and remember those who sacrificed their lives defending hearth and home on faraway shores. But the Memorial Day weekend has also become an occasion for revelry and celebration. This three-day holiday gives us the perfect excuse to kick back and relax with family and friends as we welcome the unofficial arrival of summer.


Good, innocent fun is not that hard to find, but alcohol consumption still plays a big part in many of the festivities that accompany our Memorial Day observations. Much of the concern this generates focuses on the dangers of drinking and driving, which makes sense given the fact that holidays are always associated with increased highway travel. Over the Memorial Day weekend, the rate of traffic fatalities rises by about 11 percent, and intoxicated or impaired drivers are responsible for a disturbingly high proportion of deadly car crashes.

Coincidentally—or maybe not so coincidentally—the number of young people admitted to hospital emergency rooms for the treatment of injuries related to underage drinking also increases by 11 percent on Memorial Day weekend. And the numbers are even worse for young people who combine alcohol with other intoxicating drugs, as ER visits jump by 27 percent for this group. Drinking and drugging damage bodies and minds and take lives, and too often they turn occasions for celebration into times of tragedy.

Youth Drinking Never Takes a Holiday

Despite legal prohibitions, alcohol and drug consumption are common among adolescents and older teens. The most recent statistics reveal that 25 percent of those ages 12 to 17 will consume alcohol over the course of any given year, while 20 percent will consume some sort of illicit drug (most commonly marijuana or stolen prescription drugs). When holidays come around, the situation becomes even worse, as excessive and irresponsible drinking in particular is routine and seemingly taken for granted. The highest increases in rates of alcohol consumption (for all ages) occur on New Year’s Day and on the Fourth of July, but these are the only holidays that outrank Memorial Day weekend.

Based on peer attitudes and bad role modeling from adults, many teens undoubtedly think it is OK to abandon restraint when people are in a celebratory mood. If they are able to escape adult supervision for a while, adolescents may feel like anything goes and that it is okay to drink to excess in the company of friends or at parties. After all, if everyone is doing it, how can it be so bad?

Of course everyone will not be doing it, but from the perspective of adolescents, that truth may not be so obvious.

Possible Remedies for Underage Holiday Drinking and Drug Use

Alcohol has been a fixture on the teen social scene for a long time, and even though rates of alcohol consumption have dropped, the numbers are still discouraging. The level of illicit drug use also remains high among this age group, even though the identities of the most popular substances have changed somewhat over time (prescription drugs are in, cocaine is out and heroin is making a comeback). So kids are still turning to drugs and alcohol in significant numbers, as they struggle to handle the challenges and temptations that mark the difficult transition from childhood to adulthood.

Parents and other adults interested in reducing the drinking and drug taking behavior of young people over the Memorial Day weekend have three options to consider. First, they can choose to take a positive approach, encouraging kids to pursue activities that promise fun and excitement without the risk and danger connected to drugs and alcohol. In this way, young people will be pushed toward something instead of being pulled away, and their natural tendency to rebel will be disarmed before it can be activated. There is no guarantee adolescents will take such encouragement seriously, but at least they will realize their parents and other adult mentors are taking an interest and would prefer they choose good, healthy alternatives.

The second choice is to simply speak openly and honestly about how risky drugs and alcohol really are. The statistics are scary and kids should be aware of them, and this is especially true around the holidays when normal inhibitions too often disappear. Kids won’t respond well to a lecture. However, if they are presented with the facts and trusted to make good decisions they might rise to the challenge and begin to show some maturity.

The third option (for parents) is to use the arrival of the Memorial Day weekend an excuse to organize fun family outings that even teens will enjoy. Families are stronger together than apart, and the best way to keep vulnerable young people on the right track is to bring everyone aboard the same train before it leaves the station. Holidays should be all about family anyway, and shared activities can help keep kids out of trouble and help families strengthen the ties that bind.

Kids, Drugs and Alcohol Don’t Mix

Intoxicating substances are so widely available that adolescents are bound to be exposed to them at some point. The risks are elevated during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, but regardless of the time of year, drugs and alcohol are a problem that parents, educators and youth counselors cannot afford to ignore. Taking an interest in the lives of teens means staying alert and up-to-date on the greatest dangers they face, and few things are a bigger threat to their health and welfare than underage drinking and drugging.

On Memorial Day, we should be honoring the memory of those who lost their lives on the battlefield, not the memory of sons and daughters who were tragically taken away by drugs and alcohol.

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