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Prom is an exciting time for the lives of many teens. Think dresses, tuxedos, corsages and boutonnieres. Almost as exciting as the prom is the post-prom plan. Kids from school might be throwing a party, or they might plan on hanging out after the prom is done. These are prime chances and opportunities for teens to have exposure and access to alcohol. In the rush of things, teens may feel pressured into trying to "fit in."

First of all, teens must understand that underage drinking is never acceptable. The fact is, during prom season, some parents choose to "look the other way," or say things such as "they'll only be kids once." It may be so, but the truth is that underage drinking is very dangerous. Many teens will be driving that night, which makes the combination of alcohol and lack of long-term defensive driving experience even more dangerous and may create consequences that turn a fun, memorable night a tragic one.

Most state organizations already have prom safety campaigns that are focused on the prom. But these are only programs; it is still always up to the teens to make the right decisions for themselves in each situation.

Here are some ideas for pre-prom plans for preventing alcohol:
  • Create an itinerary for the night – Chances are, teens will make plans with their friends for activities after the prom. Should there be any changes to the itinerary; make sure that parents are informed.
  • Get parents involved – Parents should always be involved in the planning of activities. If the teen is bringing a car, it is a good idea to have a special prom-only addendum in the parent-teen driving contract, outlining the expectations. It also helps to set up contingency plans for the night and plan for ways to get out of bad situations. Parents should look out for texts from teens, should they need to be picked up.
  • Be prepared to say no – There's no harm in hanging out with friends, sure, but if possible, choose parties that parents approve of. If offered a drink, be prepared to say no. "It won't hurt," they’ll say, and it won't hurt to pass either, regardless of peer pressure.
Remember that the use of alcohol by teens increase the risk of activities that may result in serious long-term consequences, including:
  • Use of other drugs (alcohol is a gateway drug because its use compromises judgment and reduces inhibitions).
  • Driving under the influence.
  • Alcohol poisoning from binge drinking (teens often binge drink to relax and may participate in drinking games that result in ingestion of large quantities of alcohol in a short period of time).
  • Increased sexual activity and multiple sexual partners due to lowered inhibitions, which increases the risk of pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Exacerbation of underlying, perhaps undiagnosed, mental illness.
  • Violence and rape (whether the victim is under the influence or not.
  • Suicide.
Planning for an alcohol-free prom may be a challenge, but doing so will help you have a safe, happy prom night.

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