I was watching the news this week and took note of a dangerous new trend called “black out” parties.  These are parties where teens and college students dress in neon colors and go dance. They can be held in warehouse spaces or empty buildings that can be rented for the evening and are usually promoted as light shows with dancing. Often the advertising for the party states it is alcohol-free. This simple description doesn’t sound so harmful, however, what struck me was the report of how many teens are using the parties as a way to access alcohol and drugs.

The news local story showed a reporter interviewing 2 teenage girls, dress in short shorts with neon bracelets. One teen was looking into the camera with a glassy eyed gaze, while the other was alert enough to answer questions, but had obvious slurring of her speech. As the one teen answered questions about the party location and who was present, the other teen slumped over a curb and appeared to black out. This was when the news reporter abruptly ended the interview. Black out parties are not named this because of the risk of blacking out from excess alcohol, but they are gaining national attention because of the association with acute alcohol poisoning. Check out a news clip here.

Of course, teens and parties are not new.  We had a recent post on a teen who texted a few friends to come over while his dad was out of town, then ended up having a house full of people he didn’t know and getting into trouble with the police for having alcohol on the premises. These ‘new’ parties sound a lot like raves (concerts with live music or DJ’s which are notorious for having illicit drugs like ecstasy) without the live music. What these new “black out” parties highlight is the need to talk with your teen about drugs and alcohol as well as your expectations around behavior.

Here are some tips for parents:

  • Establish communication. Talk with your teen about your views on underage drinking and what they can do if their are offered alcohol or find themselves in a situation where drugs and alcohol are being served.
  • Discuss expectations of behavior and curfew before your teen asks to go to a party. Let them have input on what consequences will be if they come home late or are caught using drugs.
  • Have a ‘free phone call.‘ Let your teen know they can ALWAYS call you to come pick them up no matter when or where they are calling from. If they use this ‘free phone call’ don’t lecture/yell while driving them home. You’ll be upset, they may be scared. Wait until the next morning when you are both calm to discuss what happened and consequences so it doesn’t happen again.
  • Talk with your teen about not hesitating to call 911. Alcohol poisoning can be deadly. If your teen is out with a friend who blacks out (like the teen in the local news clip), they need to call 911 immediately.
  • Do your research. If your teen asks to attend a party, ask where it will be, what time, who will be going. If they have an advertisement, check out the source. Many of the companies promoting black out parties have active websites or social media pages. If you’re not comfortable with what you see, offer an alternative way for your teen to hang out with friends.