Alcohol at a party for teens is illegal for good reason


June 16, 1992|By Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe

Q: Our daughter is graduating from high school this month and she is planning a party at our home for many of her friends. Since this is a special occasion, she wants to serve alcohol. We know they'll wind up drinking somewhere, so we wonder whether it wouldn't be better to let her friends drink at our house where we can monitor them and confine the alcohol to beer and wine coolers rather than hard liquor. What do you think?

A: Maryland law is quite clear in this regard: Serving alcohol to individuals under the age of 21 is illegal, regardless of where it occurs. We support such an approach given the significant role that alcohol plays in the deaths of thousands of young people nationwide each year. Studies have shown that up to 50 percent of adolescent motor vehicle accidents, homicides and suicides are associated with some kind of alcohol and/or other drug use at the time of death; boating and drowning deaths show the same pattern. A similar percentage of date rapes also involved drinking by one or both individuals.

We understand your concerns but feel that parents should send a very clear and consistent "no use" message to their underage adolescents about alcohol. Your daughter will get enough pressure to drink from what she sees on television and from her friends. While you may be able to monitor the amount of alcohol consumed, some of her friends will still likely be driving home after having consumed a significant amount of beer. Their ability to drive may be impaired even though they seem normal to you.

Finally, the distinction between beer, wine coolers and hard liquor is an artificial one. The amount of alcohol contained in a 12-ounce can of beer or a wine cooler is equal to 1.5 ounces of 80-proof bourbon or gin. Once the alcohol enters the body, its

effects are the same regardless of the source.

Dr. Wilson is director of pediatric primary care of the Johns

Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.

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