Parents giving liquor to minors: New Mercer Island law

28 Dec

SeattlePI.Com reprinted an article by Amy Graff, which originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Kegging It With the Kids: Is OK for Parents to Drink With Their Teens?Graff reports about a European study of parental influence.

A team of European researchers set out to test the theory that parents can guide their teenagers into drinking responsibly by serving them alcohol. They looked at 428 Dutch families with two children between the ages of 13 and 15. Parents and teens completed questionnaires on drinking habits at the outset and again one and two years later.

The study results, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, found that the more teenagers were allowed to drink at home, the more they drank outside of home. The reverse was also true, with out-of-home drinking leading to more drinking at home.

What’s more, teens who drank under their parents’ watch or on their own had an elevated risk of developing alcohol-related problems. Drinking problems included trouble with school work, missed school days and getting into fights with other people, among other issues.

The findings, according to the lead researcher on the study, Dr. Haske van der Vorst, suggest that teen drinking begets more drinking — and, in some cases, alcohol problems — regardless of where and with whom they drink.

“If parents want to reduce the risk that their child will become a heavy drinker or problem drinker in adolescence,” van der Vorst of Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, says “they should try to postpone the age at which their child starts drinking.”

Well, duh. This is like saying give a college student a ticket to Cancun for Spring Break, they’ll go and have a good time. Hazelton.Org has some good reasons parents should not provide alcohol to children and the reasons can be summed up with the thought, someone has  to be the adult.    

Brian M. Rosenthal reports in the Seattle Times article, New city underage-drinking law targets parents:

Starting next month, Mercer Island parents will be held responsible for underage drinking at their homes even if they are out of town and unaware it is happening.

The recently passed “social host” ordinance, believed to be the first of its kind in the state, will take effect Jan. 13. The measure imposes a $250 fine on those who own, rent or lease property where teenage drinking has occurred.

It is already illegal for adults to provide alcohol to minors or for parents to let their underage children drink. The new ordinance takes the idea of parent responsibility a step further, City Councilmember Mike Cero said.

“What makes this different is that the parents don’t have to have any knowledge of wrongdoing to be held accountable,” he said. “They could be in Timbuktu (and) have no knowledge of alcohol being consumed.”

Cero acknowledged the measure is an extreme step, but he said the need to fight underage drinking outweighed concerns about infringement on personal liberties. He argued that parents have a duty to make sure their children are acting safely.

What is Substance Abuse?

HELPGUIDE.ORG defines substance abuse and also describes some of the traits of a substance abuser.

Drug abuse, also known as substance abuse, involves the repeated and excessive use of chemical substances to achieve a certain effect. These substances may be “street” or “illicit” drugs, illegal due to their high potential for addiction and abuse. They also may be drugs obtained with a prescription, used for pleasure rather than for medical reasons.

Different drugs have different effects. Some, such as cocaine or methamphetamine, may produce an intense “rush” and initial feelings of boundless energy. Others, such as heroin, benzodiazepines or the prescription oxycontin, may produce excessive feelings of relaxation and calm. What most drugs have in common, though, is overstimulation of the pleasure center of the brain. With time, the brain’s chemistry is actually altered to the point where not having the drug becomes extremely uncomfortable and even painful.  This compelling urge to use, addiction, becomes more and more powerful, disrupting work, relationships, and health.  

Although, the focus of this article is children and teens who abuse various substances, there is a widespread problem with their parents and caretakers. A recent report found that many children live with parents who are substance abusers

Almost 12 percent of children in the United States live with a parent who has a substance abuse problem, says a federal government study released this week.

Living in this type of home environment can cause long-lasting mental and physical health problems, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which did the study.

The analysis of national data from 2002 to 2007 also showed that:

·         Almost 7.3 million youths lived with a parent who was dependent on or abused alcohol

·         About 2.1 million children lived with a parent who was dependent on or abused illicit drugs

·         About 5.4 million children lived with a father who met the criteria for past-year substance dependence or abuse

·         About 3.4 million children lived with a mother who met these criteria 

Often children who evidence signs of a substance abuse problem come from homes where there is a substance abuse problem. That problem may be generational.

eMedicineHealth lists some of the causes of substance abuse 

Substance Abuse Causes

Use and abuse of substances such as cigarettes, alcohol, and illegal drugs may begin in childhood or the teen years. Certain risk factors may increase someone’s likelihood to abuse substances.

·         Factors within a family that influence a child’s early development have been shown to be related to increased risk of drug abuse.

o                       Chaotic home environment

o                       Ineffective parenting

o                       Lack of nurturing and parental attachment

·         Factors related to a child’s socialization outside the family may also increase risk of drug abuse.

o                       Inappropriately aggressive or shy behavior in the classroom

o                       Poor social coping skills

o                       Poor school performance

o                       Association with a deviant peer group

o                       Perception of approval of drug use behavior

Substance abuse is often a manifestation of other problems that child has either at home or poor social relations including low self esteem. Dr. Alan Leshner summarizes the reasons children use drugs in why do Sally and Johnny use drugs?

How Can You Recognize the Signs of Substance Abuse?

Parents provides general signs of substance abuse and also gives specific signs of alcohol abuse, and several different drugs, narcotics, and inhalants. The general warning signs are:

·         Changes in friends

·         Negative changes in schoolwork, missing school, or declining grades

·         Increased secrecy about possessions or activities

·         Use of incense, room deodorant, or perfume to hide smoke or chemical odors

·         Subtle changes in conversations with friends, e.g. more secretive, using “coded” language

·         Change in clothing choices: new fascination with clothes that highlight drug use

·         Increase in borrowing money

·         Evidence of drug paraphernalia such as pipes, rolling papers, etc.

·         Evidence of use of inhalant products (such as hairspray, nail polish, correction fluid, common household products); Rags and paper bags are sometimes used as accessories

·         Bottles of eye drops, which may be used to mask bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils

·         New use of mouthwash or breath mints to cover up the smell of alcohol

·         Missing prescription drugs—especially narcotics and mood stabilizers

Remember, these are very general signs, specific drugs, narcotics, and other substances may have different signs, it is important to read the specific signs.

What Steps Should a Parent Take?

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has a series of questions parents should ask If you suspect that your child has a substance abuse problem, you will have to seek help of some type. You will need a plan of action. The Partnership for a Drug Free America lists 7 Steps to Takeand each step is explained at the site. If your child has a substance abuse problem, both you and your child will need help. “One day at a time” is a famous recovery affirmation which you and your child will live the meaning. The road to recovery may be long or short, it will have twists and turns with one step forward and two steps back. In order to reach the goal of recovery, both parent and child must persevere.

Questions to Ask a Treatment Facility

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (Center), lists the following questions that should be asked of a treatment center. The Center also has a facility locator and links. Assuming you are not one of those ill-advised parents who supply their child with alcohol or drugs like marijuana in an attempt to be hip or cool, suspicions that your child may have a substance abuse problem are a concern. Confirmation that your child has a substance abuse problem can be heartbreaking. Even children whose parents have seemingly done everything right can become involved with drugs. The best defense is knowledge about your child, your child’s friends, and your child’s activities. You need to be aware of what is influencing your child. Back in the day, my mother would have put a CIA intelligence officer to shame. I thought she and my dad were two crazy old coots. I thank them for being my parents and not wanting to be my friends.

The fact that a parent has to assume the role of their child’s friend says a lot  about their lack of maturity and judgment. Unfortunately, for some children, mom and dad are growing up right along side them.


1.      Adolescent Substance Abuse Knowledge Base

2.      Warning Signs of Teen Drug Abuse

3.      Is Your Teen Using?

4.      Al-Anon and Alateen

5.      Center for Substance Abuse Publications

6.      National Clearinghouse for Drug and Alcohol Information

7.      WEBMD: Parenting and Teen Substance Abuse

8.      The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a very good booklet for families What is Substance Abuse Treatment?

9.      The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has a web site for teens and parents that teaches about drug abuse NIDA for Teens: The Science Behind Drug Abuse

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

One Response to “Parents giving liquor to minors: New Mercer Island law”


  1. The rich are different: Mercer Island underage drinking « drwilda - March 10, 2012

    […] Parents giving liquor to minors: New Mercer Island law                                 […]

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