Twelve Talks to

Have With Teens

Alcohol

Adults often feel that a little alcohol is harmless for teens. However, underage alcohol use — particularly binge drinking — leads to risky sexual behavior, use of other drugs, alcohol poisoning or violence. ​

 

  • Jefferson County youth report that when they drink, they usually drink "to get drunk." 

  • Youth alcohol use can contribute to a variety of serious problems including:

  • Increased likelihood of risky sexual behavior

  • Increased risk of physical and sexual assault

  • Increased risk of memory problems

What would you consider to be too much to drink?

  • Alcohol is the most common "date rape" drug. Jefferson County youth report that sexual assaults almost always involve alcohol (2018 Youth Town Hall).

  • In Jefferson County, youth report three main sources of alcohol: taking it without permission from home, buying it off someone old enough to purchase it and being given alcohol by a parent or guardian (2018 Youth Town Hall).

  • Jefferson County youth report that drinking most often occurs in people's homes with "chill" parents or when parents/guardians are out of town. When asked what "really happens" at parties, youth report binge drinking, use of multiple types of drugs, rape and fights as common occurrences (2018 Youth Town Hall).

  • Local data shows that when parents set the expectation of knowing where their teen is and who they are with, those teens are much less likely to binge drink. 

  • Because the teenage brain is wired to learn quickly, but is not yet fully developed, as described in the video below, use of alcohol and other drugs is particularly likely to harm the brain’s development.

Learn how your teen’s brain develops and how substances can impact the process. (3:15)

Conversation Starters

  • When you see advertisements for alcohol or are going past an alcohol store or bar, use that as a conversation starter by commenting on the number or style of alcohol references in the area.

  • Tell your teen you were just reading statistics about drinking in Jefferson County. Ask them to define binge drinking and to guess what demographic has the highest rates of binge drinking. (Answers: 4 drinks for women/ 5 drinks for men; and white, middle class, middle aged women.)

  • When you or other family members buy or use alcohol in front of your teen, talk to them about why alcohol is okay for you, when used in moderation, but not for teens

Ask yourself

  • Are you promoting alcohol to your teen? If you drink around your teen, be honest about your enjoyment — but avoid glamorizing it. Talk about how and why you limit the amount you drink.

  • Have you expressed your values clearly?

    • Let your teen know that you do not approve of adults providing alcohol and other harmful substances to teenagers.

    • Include discussions about parties in your conversations, such as how to handle alcohol or drugs, sexual advances, watching out for friends, and getting a ride home if their ride has been drinking or using other drugs.

    • Be sure to tell your teen very directly (and even if it feels uncomfortable) that combining sex — of any type — with alcohol or other drugs is not acceptable. They should not have sex with someone who has been drinking or taking drugs, and they need to stop others from hooking up with someone who is intoxicated. No one can give consent if they have taken, or may have taken, any type of alcohol or drugs.

  • Want to practice the conversation before you have it? Try out this conversation simulator from Be The Influence.

Things to do

  • In Jefferson County, teens who report that parents or guardians know who they are with and where they are when they are not home are much less likely to binge drink. Make sure your teen communicates this information with you.

  • If adults in your home use alcohol, make an agreement that they will never provide alcohol to those under 21. 

  • Discuss alcohol poisoning, signs of an alcohol overdose, and resources, including understanding Colorado’s "Good Samaritan" Law. The law states that if you call 911 in the event of a friend or loved one overdosing on drugs or alcohol, and you stay with the person experiencing overdose, you won't get in any trouble - even if you were drinking or taking drugs yourself. The law also protects the person experiencing alcohol poisoning or other overdoses.

  • Keep alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs and firearms in a locked cabinet or in locked room in your home. Track the amount kept in the home and let your teens know you keep track of it. Even if your teen would never take these items without permission, locking them prevents your teens friends, younger children, visitors to your home and pets from accessing them. Need ideas for putting this into action? See the handout below.

Resources & Help

  • If you worry that a loved one needs help with substance misuse, including alcohol, Jefferson Center has helpful guidelines for you to consider. This article from Jefferson Center can help you decide. 

  • The SAMHSA Talk They Hear You: This website includes information for parents about talking to youth about alcohol, how to tell if your teen may be drinking, and answering tough questions (such as, “Did you drink when you were a kid?”)

  • Preventing Teen Drug Use: Risk Factors and Why Kids Use: This resource from Partnership for Drug-Free Kids outlines many of the reasons why teenagers may use alcohol and other substances.

Rules & Boundaries

  • Know where your teen is and who they are with when they are not at home.

  • If adults in your home use marijuana, make an agreement that they will never provide marijuana to those under 21. Also track the amount kept in the home and let your teens know you keep track of it. Even if your teen would never take these items without permission, locking them prevents your teen's friends, younger children, visitors to your home and pets from accessing them.

  • Keep alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs and firearms in a locked cabinet or in locked room in your home.

 

Equity & Inclusion

  • Youth and adults who become addicted to alcohol or other drugs benefit from professional treatment. Unfortunately, many groups face stigma around treatment and disparities in access to treatment. If you are struggling to find or afford treatment, patient navigators at Jefferson Center may be able to help.

 

  • Youth in Colorado are suspended or expelled from school or involved with law enforcement for underage alcohol use, and youth of color or youth that experience a disability are more likely to be disciplined than white youth in Colorado.

  •  Ask your school about their discipline practices and code of conduct. Ask how they are implementing health and substance use education. Ask about Jeffco’s restorative practices and how they are being implemented equitably for all students.

Taking Action in your Community

Reduction of risk factors, and improvements in protective factors, can happen on multiple levels-- within an individual, among friends and family, by adjusting systems in places like schools or businesses, and on the policy level for towns, counties or states.  When improvements happen on all levels, our teens are most likely to thrive. Here are some policy and systems you and/or your teens might be able to influence:

  • Many Jeffco youth learn from other youth how to binge drink at parties or gatherings in private homes. Cities can pass laws to fine homeowners or leaseholders when they  allow youth to consume substances on their property.

    • Join Jeffco CTC to address local policies and efforts that support youth.

  • Cites can restrict alcohol promotions, signage, merchandising, location, etc.. These types of policies may help reduce youth marijuana use. 

    •  Join Jeffco CTC to address local policies and efforts that support youth.
       

  • The amount and content of health education students receive (including information about substance misuse and effective skill development) varies by school. 

  • Having data in our county on youth alcohol use and behaviors helps to bring in resources and support for youth.

    • Email the local Board of Education (see example letter here) to share your support for the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey to get important information on youth needs in our community. 

    • Join your School Accountability Committee and ask about using non-academic data and information (e.g., health information, climate survey data, etc) to guide school improvement efforts and plans.

Smiling Teenage Boy
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* Healthy Kids Colorado Survey 2019, Jefferson County data; **Jefferson County CTC Youth Town Hall data 2019 & 2020.

 

This project was created by the Jefferson County Communities That Care coalition and is housed within Jefferson County Public HealthThis resource was developed with funding from a Communities That Care grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, a grant from Community First Foundation and a Drug-Free Communities grant from the Office of National Drug Control Policy and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The views, policies and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the grant providers.