It has been seen to be something of a global phenomenon – teens at wild parties, binge drinking and indulging in excessive and even dangerous behaviors, often with tragic consequences.
It isn’t just the dangers that drunk driving can pose, the relative immaturity of teenagers do not allow them to understand the very grim consequences of intoxication which can even result in death.
16 year old James Webster had died last year after acute alcohol poisoning following heavy drinking at the birthday party of a friend in Auckland. After consuming large quantities of liquor quickly and secretly, James was taken to a parent’s home to ‘sleep it off’; however they found he had died in his bed during the night.
It was at his inquest which was held recently, that parents and children were given the timely reminder about how dangerous a drug alcohol can be.
It was a very similar story of 15 year old Isobel Reilly who died as a result of drugs, it is thought, in west London again at a friend’s party. This was a party hosted by 14 year old Beatrice and was unsupervised by parents. The father of the party host, a university lecturer called Brain Dodgeon has since been arrested on charges of possession of drugs and child abandonment.
It is being said that a bag of pills including Ketamine and Ecstasy were found in the house where the party was being held. Three other 14 year old children were also taken to hospital after this party for observation but they are now out of danger.
Stories such as these can send a chill down the spine of any parent. It would be naïve to assume that this is the sort of thing that happens to other people’s children, because any teen is typically curious about life, and who wants to be seen as ‘with it’ and is likely to give in to peer pressure and could well be in such a dangerous situation; yes even the good kids, whose parents may think they won’t touch booze or drugs.
Given a situation where all their friends are smoking, or drinking or doing drugs, a teenager may feel great pressure to conform and may find that he or she may try and ‘experiment’ which may have disastrous consequences.
As in the case of James Webster, his parents had been planning to have a talk with him about the dangers of drinking, but they left their chat too late.
There was also the problem, that the adults present at the party tried to handle the situation on their own when in fact they should have called an ambulance.
However other parents can learn from this tragedy. Parents and schools need to develop resources to help parents teach children about all the various dangers posed by alcohol and also raise their own level of awareness about the possible consequences of teen drinking.
And this process of raising awareness cannot start soon enough and it has been suggested that such education can be initiated right from middle school onwards and that parents should be involved at every stage.