Prom night

A Pre-Prom Plan for Avoiding Alcohol

Prom is an exciting event in the lives of many teens, who are preoccupied with buying dresses or renting tuxedos, selecting corsages and boutonnieres, choosing formal hairstyles, and making post-prom plans. But prom can also be a dangerous time for teens who choose to drink alcohol or ride with other teens who drink. You must plan ahead in order to ensure your own safety.

First, you need to understand that underage drinking is never acceptable. The fact that prom is a special occasion or that some parents might “look the other way” when their teenage children drink alcohol does not change the fact that underage drinking is illegal and very dangerous. If you are attending a party at a friend’s house, make sure your friends’ parents don’t intend to provide alcohol; if they do, tell your parents. This is illegal in every state. An alternative is to talk to your parents about organizing an after-prom party of your own.

If you will be riding with a friend, make sure it is someone whose parents do not permit the use of alcohol. You’ll still need to have a back-up plan in case something goes wrong. Create a code with your parents so you can signal for help without attracting your friends’ attention. If your parents don’t text, give them a few lessons before prom night; texting is a much easier way for you to communicate than via phone. If you need a ride, you can text a code that means “Please come get me!”, such as “Dinner was great!” When your parent arrives to pick you up, tell your friends you have a family emergency. Talk to your parents ahead of time about being able to call for a ride with no questions asked until the next morning, when you are calm and safe. However, if anyone at the event you are leaving is in danger of hurting themselves or others, you’ll need to tell your parent right away.

Make a record of your planned itinerary for the evening, and agree to inform your parents of any changes. Be alert to spontaneous changes in plans on the night of the prom; you won’t have as much control over the situation if it takes place in an unfamiliar location and/or with people you don’t know well. In the excitement of the evening, you could end up in a risky situation before you realize what is happening. This is why it’s especially important not to drink any alcohol at all, even a little; because even a small amount of alcohol reduces inhibitions and impairs judgment, you may react emotionally while under the influence without considering the consequences of your behavior.

Remember that the use of alcohol by teens increases 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.