On March 15, Newton High School students and partner agencies of the Newton County Drug Free Coalition will host an event to educate students about the impact substance use and related choices can have on their lives. The event is timely as this is the season when teens and their families are planning post-prom parties and graduation celebrations.
Alcohol and drug use has a number of associated risky behaviors, such as unplanned and unprotected sexual activity, violence, suicide and overdose. While many parents take extra steps to keep their teens safe from alcohol and drugs, there is a disturbing trend of parents hosting parties at home that sends a mixed message.
Some parents think that their teens and their friends will be safer if they consume alcohol during a party at a supervised location, rather than in a hotel room, at a farm or in a car with other teens. Some parents think of high school graduation as a promotion to adulthood and its privileges, including the right to consume alcohol, tobacco products or other drugs.
The reality is that consuming alcohol, nicotine and other drugs prior to the brain’s full development in a person’s mid-20s comes with significant consequences, including a 500 percent greater risk for future addiction and health-related issues. And, every spring, the media shares stories of teens who have died from overdose, been killed in car accidents, or have committed crimes resulting in jail time while under the influence.
The most frequently asked question, often in a court of law, is who should be held accountable for the results of the teens’ behavior? Is it the minor who consumed the product, the adult who provided the product, or the adult who allowed the product to be consumed? Can the chain of evidence from purchase to consumption be established?
In the State of Georgia, there is only one scenario in which a minor may legally consume alcohol: when in his or her own home, in the presence of his or her parents or guardian, who purchased and provided the product. Any other combination of location, adult presence or provision is illegal and punishable by significant penalties through local ordinances and state law.
The practice of adults allowing an environment in which youth can consume alcohol on property they control is called ‘social hosting’, and no matter how well intentioned, it can still result in catastrophic events. Even if alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs are not officially offered by the host, adult supervision is necessary to be sure that guests have not brought alcohol or drugs with them to the event.
Parents should be vigilant and ask the right questions about parties their teens plan to attend. Will adults be present throughout the entire event? Do the adult hosts feel social hosting is okay? Will guests be checked for alcohol and drugs when they arrive? Will guests not be allowed to leave unless accompanied by a confirmed designated driver?
Teens are learning to make the choices that will keep them safe as adults, but they sometimes make mistakes. Our job as parents and friends is to help keep our kids safe, healthy, and sober until they are old enough to decide for themselves.
The Newton County Drug Free Coalition meets monthly to share the individual work of agencies in our community who are concerned with prevention, treatment, and recovery from substance abuse and related health behaviors. The agencies work cooperatively to support each other’s programs and collaborate to engage and educate the community through events, print materials, and social media.
The Kick the Habit! event at Newton High School will include 11 agencies representing such diverse issues as mental health, suicide prevention, prescription drug use, alcohol use, and tobacco use prevention, and dating violence prevention. For more information about Newton County Drug Free Coalition or Kick the Habit! event, contact Mollie Melvin, DFC Chair, at 770-786-0807 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mollie Melvin is Program Director for Newton County Community Partnership and most recently worked with HEARTS for Families, providing activities to promote prevention of underage drinking. Mollie has worked in organizations supporting families and children since 1987, first in Savannah then coming to Covington in 2006. In addition to chairing the Newton County Drug Free Coalition, Mollie sits on the Newton County School System CTAE Advisory Committee and the Georgia Piedmont Technical College Early Childhood Education Advisory Committee. She has a passion for promoting family literacy and working with youth volunteers through the Hands On Newton program.