Grand Futurres: Camping and underage drinking — A dangerous combination |

Grand Futurres: Camping and underage drinking — A dangerous combination

With summertime fully upon us, everyone is exploring the great outdoors — camping, fishing, hiking, biking and enjoying time with friends. Summer just isn’t summer without great adventures. But what happens when summer adventures are mixed with underage drinking?

School was out and we needed some time in the woods to relax, have fun and enjoy everything summer has to offer. We hiked, fished, swam in the lake and roasted s’mores by the fire.

We were enjoying our freedom from the structured school environment and, while some of us were of age, many were not. Yet, alcohol was present every night.

The last night the drinking got out of hand, and a few people decided to pretend to be fire breathers; essentially blowing alcohol at the end of a stick that was on fire to create a small fireball.

My good friend was simply standing in the wrong place at the wrong time when one of those seemingly harmless fireballs of alcohol caught her on fire. Luckily, someone jumped on her right away and used a sweatshirt to put out the flames. But, the damage was done.

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The fireball hit her on the side of her face and she needed immediate medical attention. Thankfully, several people had chosen not to drink and were able to drive us to the hospital two hours away. On the way, we ran into another blessing, a park ranger who had a siren in his truck, which got us there much quicker.

My friend had second degree burns on the left third of her face and part of her left ear had to be cut off because of the damage those alcohol flames caused. As we waited, the park ranger told us that this wasn’t uncommon.

Just that summer, he’d seen multiple burn victims caused by people combining alcohol and fire while camping. He also told us about the not so uncommon cases of teens and young adults nearly dying from alcohol poisoning and cautioned us to look out for and take care of our friends. My friend survived, thankfully.

While this happened years ago, my friend still has to live with those scars, and I’ll never forget seeing her face lit on fire. The horrible side effects of young adults making poor choices when alcohol is involved and a terrible accident that could’ve been prevented if only our inhibitions weren’t drowning in alcohol.

In Steamboat in 2017, 69 minors were charged with a Minor In Possession, and, according to the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey 2017, 61 percent of Steamboat Springs High School students have reported drinking in their lifetime.

But, here’s some good news. Not all teens are engaging in this behavior; 75 percent haven’t had a drink in the past 30 days, and 39 percent of them have never consumed alcohol.

It’s important when talking to your teens about alcohol to let them know many of their peers are making good choices and not drinking alcohol. Encourage them to make good choices. Often as a teen, it can seem like everybody’s doing it and to feel pressured to fit in. By talking to your teen and encouraging them to be their best self, you can influence their behavior. It may not seem like it, but they are listening.

According to FDC Prevention Works, “research shows that parents do have a significant influence on an adolescent’s decision to use or to not use, alcohol. Studies by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids have shown that children whose parents speak with them about the risks of alcohol and other drug use are approximately 50-percent less likely to experience later problems with use than kids who don’t have the opportunity for this conversation.

“FCD Prevention Specialists inform parents that, when it comes to alcohol and other drug use prevention, what is effective is not one 60-minute conversation, but 60 one-minute conversations. Short, frequent conversations in the car, over dinner or in casual chats about pop culture are more effective than long, infrequent conversations, which can feel intimidating to both adults and kids alike. Parents should take everyday opportunities to talk about alcohol with children in informal, commonplace settings.

“By having easy, health-based conversations with their children, parents create supportive, nurturing environments where children feel comfortable talking about the subject and asking questions. And in creating such open environments, parents and caregivers provide not only knowledge, but support, to their children. When teens learn about the unhealthy consequences of alcohol consumption from parents, they are encouraged to continue to look to their caregivers as a resource if needed.”

Karli Bockelman is the Tri-County program director at Grand Futures.

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