The following is an article I wrote in September, 2005 for the Watchdog Website.

It's still worth reading if one has teenagers.

September 29, 2005 - Homecoming

Updated January 2015

By Mary McGarr

The season for Homecoming is upon us.  Some schools have already had theirs, some not.

The practice among Katy high school students to expand on the evening by going to Galveston or elsewhere is certainly a debatable practice.  Students have been getting away with what they do for all the thirty-three years I’ve lived here.  Wise parents should be watchful of such behavior.  Nothing much that’s good happens on these occasions.

My purpose in writing on this topic is not to discuss whether parents should or should not allow these adventures.  By the time kids are 17 and 18, they pretty much are doing as they please if that is the way they were raised. If parents have had some control over the years, then even if one’s child goes with the crowd, parents can pretty much expect that his behavior will be in line with his upbringing.

There is, however, something that does happen even to “good” kids who get swept up in the moment. 

Alcohol is the problem. I’m not naďve enough to think that that’s the only problem, but it can be a severe problem, and it needs addressing.

Many times, Homecoming is the initial access time for alcoholic consumption by many otherwise law abiding teenagers. Please note that it is still against the law for those under 21 to consume alcoholic beverages.

Two problems arise when young people consume alcohol.  The first has to do with the adults who provide them with the alcohol.  Some parents see no harm in this practice. Becoming the provider makes them liable for all sorts of dire consequences if there are alcohol related driving accidents after the underage drinker has obtained his alcohol in this manner.  If I were a parent, I would think twice about becoming an enabler in this regard.

The second problem has to do with young people who are not used to consuming large amounts of alcohol.  If one drink is good, five are better, and the consequences of this behavior are not commonly understood.

Kids drink for all sorts of reasons--to be one of the crowd, to make themselves feel good, to make themselves seem attractive, to embolden their social actions, et cetera.  What they aren’t looking for when they drink is becoming poisoned by that case of beer or the bottle of bourbon.

In his Drug Clinic column in the Houston Post on March 20, 1988, Dr. Joseph Pursch explained the problem in a way that anyone can understand.  I urge parents to run this information by their teens. 

Dr. Pursch begins by talking about binge drinking.  Then he asserts that many young people actually drink themselves to death because they don’t understand what happens when they consume too much alcohol.

He explains that the body’s “physiological and toxicological reaction to alcohol” can be fatal.

Explaining further he states:  “While your brain enjoys the pleasurable effects of the alcohol, your liver is working hard to rid your body of the poisonous effects.  Healthy people can tolerate one or two such drinks per hour, extracting the pleasurable effects while the liver does the dirty work.  This is called social drinking.”

However, when a young person “tries to drink a pint or more of liquor in as short a time as possible,” the problems begin.  The body’s first line of defense for excessive drinking is the “vomiting reflex” which is “triggered by the irritating effect of alcohol on the stomach lining.  It causes the alcohol to come back up instead of going on to the duodenum.  If this life-saving vomiting reflex fails and all the alcohol is absorbed into the blood stream, the liver is overwhelmed and the blood alcohol level rises rapidly.  As a result, the brain is overwhelmed too; the drinker, instead of feeling the emotional lift of social drinking, passes out cold, losing consciousness.”

Unfortunately, the friends of the drinker usually react to this situation by allowing the drinker to sleep it off in the next room.  Kids don’t like to tell on their friends, and so they believe that hiding the drinker is the best course of action.

Actually they are doing the worst thing they can do. A true friend will call for help immediately. The disciplinary consequences can’t be anywhere near those of causing the death of a friend!

“What’s really happening physiologically,” according to Dr. Pursch, “is that the young person’s liver is frantically trying to keep the blood alcohol level below 0.50” so that the alcohol in the brain centers will not stop his breathing reflex or stop his heart from beating.  If help is not found quickly, the young person may die.

That’s pretty dire, and it is a scenario that every parent should discuss with their teenaged children--both to alert them to their own vulnerability and to impress upon them the need to help others who may need it.

Perhaps one might think this sort of thing doesn’t happen in Katy.  It did when my children were growing up.  Both occasions that I know about resulted in their friends having their stomachs pumped. 

Having one's stomach pumped wasn’t pleasant, but it was better than being dead.