*This post was written by AF, a 22-year-old student at CSU Channel Islands, born and raised in Ventura County and passionate about keeping the youth and other members of the community safe, informed, and responsible.
It’s summer, and for many of us, that means increased time and freedom and decreased responsibilities. Unless you have a regular job or summer classes you have to get up early for, there are less consequences for long nights that have effects that linger into the next day. For so many of us, we can just be lazy and watch TV all day, and the decisions of last night have no impact from this moment forward. Right?
This time of decreased responsibility often comes with more questionable decisions, such as deciding to drink a lot of alcohol, whether for holiday celebrations, or with friends at crazy parties or more relaxed kick backs. Our parents are at work, our curfews are extended, and our rules are generally more lenient. These factors contribute to why summer is when underage drinking and other experimental use of drugs and alcohol peaks, particularly in June and July, according to Muir Wood Adolescent and Family Services (more on July later).
We all know underage drinkers have a variety of methods to gain access to alcohol, which is a problem in itself for another time. But summer drinking isn’t just a 21-and-under problem. Being 21 doesn’t automatically mean there are no problems drinking alcohol. Plenty of people of legal drinking age make irresponsible drinking decisions that cause harm to themselves and others.
Drinking alcohol comes with a host of side effects and dangers that you already know about. Drinkers of any age face additional risks when they drink during the summer. Alcohol and heat do not mix well. Heat stroke and dehydration become much more likely. And because alcohol also inhibits balance and judgment, things like boating accidents and other water-related dangers such as drowning increase, according to Unity Point Health. Car accidents and other incidents of reckless behavior also become more likely.
From personal experience, I am already grumpy in the heat. Research by Craig Anderson from Iowa State University confirms that higher temperatures lead to more violence and aggression. Summer can get crazy hot, and with people mixing alcohol and heat, fights and violence can break out at a moments notice. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Now back to the topic of July specifically. The 4th of July is notorious for being associated with beer and other boozy concoctions to go along with all the flag décor and fireworks. But it doesn’t have to be. No matter how old you are, you can enjoy all Independence Day (and summer for that matter) has to offer without drinking alcohol. Besides, it’s always so hot on that day, your body would thank you endlessly if you drank water instead.
Do you remember how you used to celebrate holidays like the 4th when you were young, before alcohol was on your mind? You had a BLAST, and looked forward to next year’s festivities as soon as this years’ was over. We all seem to grow up so quickly, and responsibilities are thrust upon us much too soon, before we are ready to handle them. Why not take that time to be a kid again?
Go spend the money that would be spent on booze to play carnival games or get tickets to the rides. Go ingest the calories that you would have had from alcohol on the junky festive food like snow cones or funnel cake. I urge everyone reading this, regardless of your age, to take the time to act like a kid again. Let loose, have fun–but do it sober, so you can fully enjoy the night, and live to tell the tale the next morning.
There are endless ways to have fun and enjoy this and every other day of the year that do not involve alcohol. For those of who that feel summer is for drinking, or you think you can’t enjoy the 4th without alcohol, think again. You truly can enjoy summer without drinking alcohol. I swear, it is possible. I do it every year. I drink water instead, and it makes all my other summer activities feel so much better. I go hiking. I go swimming. I go to the movies. I stay out late with friends, laughing all night. We drive around, listening to terrible music way too loudly.
Without alcohol, I stay in control. I do not get arrested. I do not put myself or others in dangerous situations. Without alcohol, I enjoy my life, I enjoy my friends, and I enjoy the way I feel.
You can do it too. Pledge to stay sober this summer. Find other fun non-alcoholic drinks to make, such as fruity spritzers or fancy lemonades. Get your friends on board, too. Together, we can give ourselves and others a safe, fun, and memorable summer.
- “Heat and Violence” by Craig A. Adams, Iowa State University, February 2001.