DEAR ABBY: I have seen letters in your column from parents who want to ensure their children's and teenagers' safety when visiting their friends' homes. A question parents need to ask the hosting parents is what their drug and alcohol policy is.
We wrongly assumed (and trusted) that our daughter's friends' parents did not facilitate access to alcohol or drugs to minors. We realized -- too late -- that from the time she was 15, our daughter had access to unmonitored alcohol and was sometimes encouraged to consume it in these homes.
Many parents think it's OK if teens drink alcohol under supervision, as long as the parents are there and they have possession of the car keys. They wrongly rationalize that the teens are going to do it anyway, so why not under supervision?
What these good-time parents don't consider is that a teen who may have a genetic predisposition to addiction may have just gotten a switch turned on in his or her developing brain. You can't look at people and know if they are prone to addiction. In our case, our daughter's addiction became a long, difficult struggle, which led to the untimely death of our smart and talented daughter at age 24. -- GRIEVING MOM IN RENO
DEAR GRIEVING MOM: I am sorry for the tragic loss of your daughter. In most states, providing alcohol to minors is against the law, not only for public safety, but also for the reason you stated.
Years ago, I spoke with a gentleman who was active with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), when he repeated something he'd heard at an AA meeting. He said the subject being discussed at the meeting was what it felt like having that "very first drink." One of the members stood up and said, "It was like someone switched a light on in my head, and I said to myself, 'So that's what it's like to feel normal!'" This is why it is imperative that families with a history of addiction make their children aware of it and clearly understand why it's important they avoid addictive substances even if their friends are indulging.