A 15 year old girl is hanging out with her boyfriend. They are sitting in his car, parked in a lot somewhere, listening to some tunes and and having a few cocktails. By cocktails, I mean a water bottle full of vodka. The preferred mode of carrying and consuming alcohol by the current teen generation. Did you know that these water bottles filled with vodka are for sale by teens who swipe alcohol from their parents, fill water bottles up and sell them to their friends. Not sure how much they go for, but that might be where the 10 bucks you gave your teen on a Saturday night might be going. Anyway, these two love birds were supposed to be chasing the vodka with some cranberry juice cocktail, but in the mindless way teens do a lot things, they got distracted, and the girl downed her water bottle of vodka like a kid who had found water in a desert. The boyfriend reported that his girlfriend started acting really weird in the car and terrified something really bad was happening, he smartly drove to an emergency room for help. Unfortunately, in his haste, he forgot to call her parents, and they got the call from the ER physician. This 15 year old's blood alcohol level was through the roof. Luckily after a stomach pumping she was OK.
This is one of those great kids from great family stories. When I spoke with the mom, I asked all the therapy kind of questions: Had she been upset about something? Had she and her boyfriend been fighting? Had she and her parents been fighting? No, no and no the mom replied. From all accounts, the two kids were just enjoying each other and mindlessly getting drunk. That to me is scarier than drinking with a purpose. At least then, you can address the purpose, and hope that the drinking was somehow related, and thus something concrete you can work on. Mindlessly drinking is trickier.
When alcohol is in that amount in a water bottle, you drink to finish it, just like you drink to finish a drink in a glass. Except when it's in a glass we're talking about 2 ounces of boos not 12 or 18 ounces. Parents you need to do some serious educating. Measure out the water in water bottle with your teen, and show them that drinking that much alcohol can kill you. Pure and simple. They need to see, not just hear what you are talking about. Teens do not count drinks like adults do. When I am out with friends, or at a party, I am very conscious of how much I am drinking. "Oh I have had 3 glasses of wine, that's enough, time to stop." Your teen does not go through that process, they are not aware of how much they have had nor are they aware of how they are feeling. The tend to go from 0- I'm not feeling anything to 10- wow I'm smashed!
Educating your teen about alcohol does not mean you say "you better not drink." It is about educating yourself first about how kids drink, before you even sit down with your teen. For example I just went online and googled teens and alcohol+water bottles. I found two new ways I didn't know about that kids get alcohol into their system. One very dangerous and disgusting new method is to soak a tampon, yes I said a tampon in vodka, than insert in vagina for girls and in the rectum for the boys. Whoa, major ick factor here. But apparently it sends the alcohol immediately through the bloodstream for an instant high, no vomiting, which is what makes it so dangerous. Vomiting is the bodies natural safety valve. With this method, an overdose would go directly to passing out and coma. Other method of ingesting is to douse gummy bear, yes gummy bears with a ton a vodka. Let it soak in, and swallow whole. See how important it is to stay up on what new creative things teens do. OK, so after your research, you can use this "I Get It" moment. " Honey see this water bottle, if you fill this with booze and drink even half of this, it could send you into an alcohol coma. I am scared that you and your friends drink very mindlessly, buying the alcohol and then going somewhere to drink it as fast as you can. This terrifies me. You might pass out, and your friends might think you are just sleeping, and then it might be too late to get you help. We have got to figure out a way for you to stay safe. I love you, and I need to know you understand that there is a huge difference between a few beers and a water bottle full of vodka."
Yelling and lecturing, grounding and taking away their cell phone will not change their behavior. Understanding the situations they might find themselves in, and helping them to develop strategies to stay safe will.