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Binge Drinking at Lollapalooza Continues to Trend Down

August 01, 2019

Chicago, Illinois  – After peaking in 2014, the number of drunk teens ending up in Chicago Emergency Rooms (ERs) dropped dramatically during the music festival, Lollapalooza.  A study led by pediatric specialists at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago shows that the number of ER visits for underage drinkers, ages 13 to 20, peaked in 2014 at 213 ER visits to 100 in 2018, a 53 percent decrease.

“We are very pleased to see that these numbers keep trending down,” said Robert Tanz, MD, general pediatrician at Lurie Children’s and Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.  “We believe our efforts over the years to create awareness of this issue coupled with the City’s stricter policies and procedures have had a significant impact on underage drinking at Lollapalooza. However, teenage drinking during this event is still too high -- 5 times higher than a normal Chicago weekend so we still have work to do.”   

Hospital visits were most common on the first day of Lollapalooza (Thursday). Data Source:  Illinois Hospital Association database – called COMPdata – includes all hospital discharges with diagnosis codes from all the Chicago Hospitals.

“To reduce underage drinking, we recommend that parents talk about the risks of underage drinking with their kids, especially before parties and other events where alcohol will be present, said Rebecca Levin, MPH, Executive Director of Preventing Alcohol Abuse in Chicago Teens (PAACT),  a multi-agency coalition convened by Lurie Children’s to address the prevention of alcohol use among 8th – 12th graders.  “We also encourage them to have their teenager check in with them throughout the day and make sure their children have safe plans for traveling home.” Lurie Children’s and PAACT worked with the city in 2016 to help create a comprehensive strategy to prevent underage drinking at Lollapalooza.

The City’s ordinance prohibiting drinking by minors is strictly enforced during the event. If any attendee is caught at the entry gates or by roving security personnel throughout the event, their pass will be confiscated for the day, and could also be confiscated for the duration of the festival.

There also will be tighter security measures in place due to the recent California shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.  The city plans more undercover security officers and a number of items will be prohibited including backpacks/large bags, cigarettes/vaping devices/drugs, outside food and coolers. 

Research at Lurie Children’s is conducted through the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute.

Lurie Children’s is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals in U.S. News & World Report. It is the pediatric training ground for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Last year, the hospital served more than 212,000 children from 49 states and 51 countries.