In this post, our guest blogger Lisa Chinn LMHC, CDP will discuss how to talk to your teen about alcohol poisoning. She has written this series from her perspective as a chemical dependency professional for adolescents. This is the 4th post in our series on addressing substance use in teens.

How to talk with your teen about alcohol poisoning. (Please keep in mind, this is about alcohol poisoning, and will not cover other substances that affect the central nervous system.)

Since alcohol is one of the most widely available and commonly used substances by teens, it is important to help teens understand the dangers of alcohol poisoning. When teens drink in social settings, they typically have the intent to “get drunk.” In contrast, adults may have one or two drinks in a sitting and they are usually done. Yes, there are exceptions to these generalizations, but when I hear teens talk about their drinking habits, they tend to report excessive drinking; most of the time generally drinking multiple beverages or binge drinking within a few minutes.  Teens may not understand the danger of drinking “a lot” of alcohol in a short amount of time. In this post I’ve mentioned a few things parents can share with their teen about the dangers of alcohol.

1. It takes about 20-30 minutes for an alcoholic drink to get into the blood stream. If a teen consumes 3 or 4 drinks in the first 30 minutes of a social gathering, their blood alcohol level will increase dramatically in a very short amount of time.

2. Alcohol is a depressant. I explain the effects of depressants in the following way to teens: Depressant means the substance effects the automatic nervous system, which controls the things in our bodies that we don’t have to think about (like breathing). The most important organs that are effected by alcohol and are crucial to life are the heart and lungs. If one’s heart stops beating and one’s lungs stop breathing, the person is no longer alive.

3. For another example: the epiglottis or the “flap” in the throat that covers the trachea and prevents food and water from entering the lungs can be affected by excessive alcohol intake. Most teens to who I have explained this to as the “flap”  tend to remember that. Most people who die from alcohol poisoning, tend not to die of their heart stopping, but die from aspiration (they have inhaled their vomit and choked or died from drowning in their vomit).

4. Call 911 if you are worried. If a teen is out with friends and someone is not responding or has passed out, they should call 911. Don’t worry about getting into trouble! Getting into trouble is a small price to pay for saving a friend’s life.