A Mass General expert shares tips about how to talk to your teen about substance use at concerts.

During the summer season of music festivals and concerts, chances are that your teens will be asking to attend a concert. While concerts can be fun events, they have long been associated with drinking and drug use. Although most concert-goers enjoy these events uneventfully, recent local and national media attention has highlighted teen deaths and drug and alcohol related overdoses at concerts. There are ways to help keep your teens safe while still giving them the opportunity to enjoy concerts.

Ask your children to tell you what they would do if they were offered something, or if they found themselves in unsafe circumstances.

It’s best to have a parent chaperone, but if you are not going to join your child at the concert, here are some tips to keep your child safe.

  • Get more information and make a plan – Find out where the concert is going to be, who your children are going with, and how they plan on getting to and from the event. Do you know the people that your teens are going with? Are they planning to drive or take public transportation? Has your teen had prior incidents involving drugs or alcohol? Make sure that you feel comfortable with the plan.
     
  • Provide the transportation if you are able – An ongoing study at MGH found that more than 30 percent of patients admitted to the MGH Emergency Department from concerts were drinking and taking drugs prior to entering the venue, especially on the subway. Dropping your children and their friends off at the venue may help minimize the chances of drinking on the way into shows. If they know that you will be picking them up as well, they also may be less inclined to drink or use drugs.
     
  • Have the talk about drugs and alcohol – While your teens may not want discuss this topic, take a moment to let your children know that they may encounter the opportunity to drink or try various drugs at a concert. It is important to remind them that binge drinking and mixing substances can have serious and deadly consequences. Designer drugs, such as synthetic marijuana, amphetamines (ecstasy, “molly,” MDMA, etc.) and other drugs can be laced with unknown substances. Alcohol, even in relatively small amounts can lead to significant intoxication, particularly in inexperienced drinkers and young females. Ask your children to tell you what they would do if they were offered something, or if they found themselves in unsafe circumstances.

Remember — being a safe way home for your child is not the same as condoning the behavior.

  • Give your teens an opportunity for a safe way to get home – If your teens find themselves in a situation where they have been drinking or taking drugs, or if they feel that they are not able to safely get home or stay at a concert, they need someone to turn to. While no parent wants to get a call from their intoxicated teen, providing them with the option for a ride home may prevent a trip to the emergency department or police station. Remember — being a safe way home for your child is not the same as condoning the behavior. Use the next day as an opportunity to talk with them about their behavior as well as the repercussions for that behavior.

As you and your teens enjoy this summer concert season, remember that open lines of communication and a little bit of education can help keep your children safe!

Stephanie Ruest, MD
Stephanie Ruest, MD
Stephanie Ruest, MD, is a graduate of the MassGeneral Hospital for Children Pediatric Residency program and a board certified general pediatrician. She is a member of the MGH Trauma Injury Prevention and Outreach Program, which applies evidenced-based approaches to prevent injuries and advocates for policies to improve the health and safety of communities. Dr. Ruest also is a pediatric emergency medicine fellow at Hasbro Children’s Hospital and a MPH candidate at Brown University. She is currently studying the association between concerts and substance use and the impact on local emergency departments.