In November the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent warning letters to four makers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages, effectively warning them to stop selling the products. The FDA's drastic measure followed studies suggesting that high caffeine intake can mask the signs of intoxication, causing individuals to underestimate just how drunk they are.
The Israeli equivalent of these products is vodka Red Bull. But despite the popularity of this dangerous cocktail, which combines vodka with a canned energy drink, most parents of teenagers in this country are incapable of warning their children of its effects.
Is that because they don't care about their children's welfare, or because they are certain their children don't drink? No. It is because most Israeli parents lack the ideological foundation that would permit them to recognize the value of educating their children about the judicious use of drugs and alcohol.
It is understandable for parents to be discomfited by the idea of their children drinking, smoking marijuana or experimenting with other drugs. Culturally, we lack sufficient real-life models for guiding our children when it comes to thorny issues such as minimizing the harm that can be caused by drug and alcohol consumption. As a result, parents seeking to instruct their children about responsible drug and alcohol use must reinvent the wheel. It's safe to assume any guidance is given discreetly, and may well be accompanied by some guilt feelings.
I am obviously not suggesting that you bake Alice B. Toklas brownies for your child's next birthday. But we cannot ignore the fact that drugs and alcohol are hazardous substances with potentially damaging physical and mental effects. Nor can we ignore the fact that in the past 20 years the rate of alcohol use among Israeli teens enrolled in a school of some kind (in other words, not street kids ) rose by more than half and now stands at almost 40 percent. In addition, the children who drink alcohol also report greater use of drugs, compared with their non-drinking peers.
So after you warn the teens in your life with appropriate severity about the dangers of drinking and drugs, you can also give them some basic tips (not in order of importance ):
Do not accept an alcoholic beverage from someone you don't know, and don't leave your glass unattended (to prevent anyone from slipping dangerous drugs into it ).
* Make sure that somebody knows where you are at all times and that you have a safe way to get home; never drive drunk or ride with a drunk driver.
Avoid having more than one drink per hour; and yes, a chaser is a drink.
Try to have food with your alcohol, preferably food with a high fat content, to slow the alcohol's absorption into your bloodstream.
If you try a new drug, take a small amount only, with an experienced person you trust and in a familiar environment where you feel comfortable.
Remember that marijuana can cause feelings of panic and paranoia.
Drug and alcohol use can cause dehydration, so don't forget to drink a lot of water.
If you or anyone else feels sick, don't be too embarrassed to call for an ambulance.
When you return home safely, drink a lot of water and take two acetaminophen tablets before going to bed.
And I almost forgot - go easy on the vodka Red Bull.
Sounds awkward, delusional, immoral? Perhaps. But this could also be the conversation that saves your child's life.