BUFFALO - University at Buffalo researcher Jennifer P. Read, an expert on teen drinking, has a simple but effective message for anyone making decisions about alcohol, holiday parties and ways to be safe: Just use your head, she says. Develop a plan before your evening starts, and stick to it.
Read, an associate professor of psychology, has studied factors that contribute to drinking among teenage and college-aged students. She speaks to groups about responsible drinking, and has also counseled parents about how to talk to their children about drinking, driving and holiday partying.
With holiday parties and get-togethers providing more opportunities for socializing, Read offers advice on how revelers can stay safe while having fun.
Q: What are some things that people can do to prevent themselves and others from drinking and driving during the holidays?
A: One is to decide ahead of time how much you want to drink. Set a limit and then keep that limit in mind as you go about the evening. Also, plan ahead regarding driving. Who will be the designated driver that evening? This is something that people should decide on ahead.
Q: Why do people tend to drink too much during the holidays?
A: The thing is that when we're out with other people, we aren't always paying attention to how much we drink. We're paying attention to the conversation, the people, the decorations, lots of other things. Because we're distracted by all that's going on, we tend not to notice how intoxicated we might be feeling.
As alcohol impairs judgment, the more we drink, the less able we are to determine that we've had enough. Also, in social settings, other people often get drinks for us or give us drinks with alcohol. These offers of alcohol tend to make people drink more.
Q: Is there anything in particular that parents can do to help teenagers and young adults from putting themselves in harm's way?
A: One thing is to pass on what they know about smart drinking. The other thing that parents can do is to ask questions about who will be driving that evening. This is true even for parents of older adolescents like teenagers or even college students.
Just asking important questions like ''Who is going to be driving you to the party tonight?'' or ''Have you decided on a designated driver?'' can help to remind them that they need to make responsible decisions around alcohol even as they're enjoying the holiday season.
Jennifer Read can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.