For many Americans, celebrating the Fourth of July includes fireworks, parades, sparklers, and backyard picnics. Alongside the hotdogs and potato salad, though, usually sit bottles of beer.
Alcohol is often a part of our cultural celebrations. When someone gets married, we toast the happy couple with champagne. Many people binge drink on St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo. Wherever someone is celebrating, chances are, alcohol is there.
Statistics PDF [138.44 KB] show that the Fourth of July is no exception. Teens and adults alike can end up in unhealthy situations from celebrating with alcohol. During the holiday weekend of July 3–5, 2009, an average of 942 ER visits occurred per day related to alcohol use by people under age 21—two-thirds by young men, which is double the usual number for this group.
When people see others around them drinking alcohol, it can seem like alcohol is harmless. NIDA’s Monitoring the Future study shows that in general, most 12th graders don’t see binge drinking on weekends PDF [1.64 MB] as being very risky. The study also shows that such thinking makes drinking alcohol more likely.
In fact, alcohol is illegal for teens and can alter the developing brain. Further, drinking heavily can lower inhibitions and open the door to taking more risks—such as driving or riding with someone when you really shouldn’t be.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Fourth of July holiday period (July 2–6) is particularly deadly. During the 2010 holiday, 392 people were killed in car crashes, 39% involving a driver with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, which qualifies as a DUI offense.
This Fourth of July, set the example for your friends: Opt for a cold lemonade, and stay safe.
Check out these resources about alcohol and underage drinking: