By Nina Alfieri, MD
The much anticipated 2017 Lollapalooza Music Festival is this weekend. Although the festival will boast another great lineup of tremendous musical talent underneath the beautiful Chicago skyline, music loving teenagers continue to be at risk for the dangers of alcohol and drug intoxication. Data from our research show that over the years, more teens go to Chicago hospitals for alcohol during Lolla weekend than any other weekend each year since 2008. Here’s the good news: while the peak of the problem was in 2014, with 212 children ages 13-20 going to ER’s for alcohol during Lolla weekend, the numbers have declined in both 2015 and 2016.
The downtrend is due to enormous combined efforts from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, the Chicago Police Department, the Chicago Mayor’s Office, the Department of Public Health, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC), the organizers of Lollapalooza, and of course – you. We believe that a major reason for the decline in alcohol related hospital visits over the last two years is because parents and teens are talking about it.
Although the decrease in emergency room visits is a step in the right direction, our work isn’t done. Lollapalooza remains the number one weekend that teens visit Chicago hospitals due to alcohol. That is why we are calling on you again to help.
Tips for Keeping Your Teen Safe
Studies have shown that (even if it may not feel like it sometimes), teenagers do listen to their parents, so here are a few ways you can keep your teen safe.
- Teenagers are more likely to avoid using alcohol and drugs if parents have communicated clear limits surrounding substance use and are consistent and fair with enforcing these rules.
- Teens should also be praised for the good things they do and parents can help their teens make good choices and positive friendships.
- Teens going to the festival need to be aware that drugs and alcohol will be present, and parents can help prepare their teens by practicing ways to “say no,” which can be really difficult, especially when a peer is offering.
- Teens at the festival should be expected to “check in” frequently with their parents by phone, and parents should help their children create plans (and back up plans) for a safe ride home. This is an important opportunity to remind your children to never get in a car with a driver who has had alcohol, marijuana or any other drug – no amount is safe.
Although we are thankful that we’ve seen an impact on the alcohol related ED visits over the last few years, our hope is that the number of teens going to the hospital for alcohol will be zero. Let’s continue to talk about it so our teens can have fun and enjoy live music without facing the music of a visit to the ER.
For more information on drug abuse prevention, visit HealthyChildren.org.