Memorial Day, celebrated by most as the beginning of summer, is enjoyed as a weekend of recreation and fun by Americans of many different ethnic, racial and cultural backgrounds and traditions.
Whether you plan to celebrate at home around a backyard barbecue, or out with friends at a park, lake or beach, you can do some simple things to prevent alcohol-related problems from ruining your fun.
The U.S. Center for Substance Abuse Prevention offers the following tips for adults attending or having Memorial Day activities where alcohol may be served:
* Do not make drinking the main purpose of a Memorial Day
* Offer an attractive selection of non-alcoholic beverages; respect the decision of those who abstain, do not make fun of them or pressure them to drink alcohol.
* Remember that drinking is illegal for those under 21, for whom alcohol-related incidents are the No. 1 killer. Do not serve alcohol to, or tolerate use by, anyone under the age of 21.
* Eat before ingesting alcohol; serve meals on time and provide snacks throughout the celebration.
* Measure drinks and keep in mind that one 12-ounce can of beer, or one five-ounce glass of dinner wine, contains about the same amount of alcohol as a 1 1/2 -ounce shot-glass of distilled spirits.
* Pace drinks. Sip, do not gulp. Avoid refilling drinks before they are finished; wait until asked to serve more. Alternate a non-alcoholic drink with alcohol to give the body time to process what has been consumed.
* Never encourage or reward intoxication by making light of it. Intoxication is an overdose that seriously threatens the health and safety of the drinker and others.
* Plan sober transportation for you or your guests beforehand. Impairment of driving abilities begins with the first drink. You cannot tell by looking at someone whether he or she is capable of driving. Do not let someone who has been drinking drive; do not ride with a driver who has been drinking.
* Discourage the combination of drinking and other activities that require coordination and judgment. For instance, alcohol is a factor in injuries and death associated with common recreational activities such as swimming and boating.
* Remember that only time reverses intoxication. Coffee, cold water or fresh air will not sober up an intoxicated drinker.
"Celebrations that promote drinking can end in tragedy," said Vivian L. Smith, M.S.W., the center's acting director. "Impairment in motor reflexes and judgment can begin with the first drink.
"The tips the U.S. Center for Substance Abuse Prevention recommends can prevent many potential problems associated with alcohol use.
"All Americans can enjoy a fun and safe Memorial Day if we apply the same simple prevention guidelines to how we celebrate," she said.
"Experience has demonstrated that prevention works, and that prevention works best when everyone throughout the community makes it their business," Ms. Smith said.
U.S. Center for Substance Abuse