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Plan Alternatives To Alcohol At Parties
By Jamie Vickers
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Many students around the state will soon celebrate at graduation parties, and some of the celebrations will include alcohol which could cause problems for students and party hosts.
"About 82 percent of high school students and 75 percent of college students in Mississippi have used alcohol within the past month," said Dr. Melissa Mixon, nutrition specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "Student drinking always increases around this time of year."
As drinking increases, the chance for accidents to occur also increases. According to national statistics, almost half of all traffic fatalities prove to be alcohol related, and alcohol-related car crashes are the No. 1 killer of teenagers in the United States.
"Underage drinking is illegal, and anyone under age 21 should not consume alcohol," Mixon said. "Plan ways to celebrate that do not include alcohol."
Theme parties offering several activities are ways to celebrate without alcohol. When parents plan parties for high school graduates, the biggest mistake is assuming their children are adults and don't need the structure of planned activities.
Options for parties include sparkling cider in champagne glasses, plenty of food and decorations to create a festive atmosphere.
"Parents or other responsible chaperones should always be involved in high school graduation parties," Mixon said. "There should always be adequate supervision, and if a guest is drunk at the party, supervisors should takes steps to ensure that the guest does not drive."
Many students may be scared to call their parents for a ride home when they have been drinking, so a "no questions asked" policy in advance may be a good idea for parents and their children.
"Every parent that I know would rather have their children call for a ride home than have a call from the hospital," Mixon said.
Hosts may be held responsible for the actions of an intoxicated guest and may even be sued for the guests' actions. Hosts should also remember they have the authority to control who is on their property.
If guests are 21 or older, precautions should still be taken in order to keep them safe. To be a cautious host when alcohol is served, plan to provide food throughout the party, do not make drinking the focus of the party, arrange transportation ahead of time for guests that will be drinking, stop serving alcohol long before the end of the party and remember that smaller parties are easier to manage.
"Putting a responsible person to take keys at the door of the party is a good way to reduce the chances of drinking and driving," Mixon said. "The ëkeymaster' should only give keys to guests who are able to drive when they leave the party."
Mixon cautioned against drinking on an empty stomach because it intensifies the effects of alcohol. Foods high in protein and starch can be helpful in lessening alcohol's effects.
"Individuals should set a limit on the number of drinks they will have and stick to it," Mixon said. "No more than one drink should be consumed per hour, or drinking can be avoided altogether if the host of the party plans and prepares properly."
Four to six drinks within a two-hour period is enough to raise an average person's blood alcohol content to levels that would constitute a drunk driving citation. But worse than a citation, drinking and driving often leads to fatal accidents.
"Everyone wants to remember graduation as a time of fun, friends and celebration," Mixon said. "When alcohol is involved, memories may not be clear, or the memories may be ones that students would rather forget."