Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lowering the drinking age...good or bad for the health of youth?

So out of a lack of anything better to read (and admittedly being a huge dork) I read an article over lunch today about the debate on lowering the drinking age to reduce the number of alcohol related injuries and deaths and alcohol abuse among young adults and older teens. For a while my brother (who has traveled Europe, but is also a drinker) has argued that if Americans lowered the drinking age like the Europeans do then less children would abuse alcohol because they would be cultured to drinking it. Interestingly enough I read that Europeans have some of the highest rates of alcohol abuse and alcohol related injuries are the number one cause of injury...hmm. So I myself debated on the issue...and based on personal experience I do not believe that lowering the drinking age would benefit anyone. I thought back to why I drank and I don't think it had anything to do with the fact that it was wrong or rebelious because I was young...and binge drinking had nothing to do with the fact that I wasn't educated on the effects of hardcore drinking. The reason I drank was primarily social...the reason I binge drank was primarily social...and the reason that I was unable to control myself was based on personal characteristics that did not bode well with substance abuse.

If you think about it...everything has to do with drinking. Once you can bear the taste of alcohol, you want to drink it because that's just what you do. Whether or not you are legally able to buy it, you will still get it somehow. And the case of binge drinking being due to inexperience and the urge to excessively drink in a short period of time because this may be your only opportunity because its illegal...I believe is incorrect. If you think about every game you've ever played while drinking...the goal is to get hammered out of it. Beer bongs = drunk fast, shots= drunk fast, flip cup= drunk fast. I will say card games and beer pong don't necessarily always push getting drunk fast...but when people realize that they aren't getting drunk, they will just take matters into their own hand. Katt Williams did a skit about how before white boys go out to party they are like "tonight....I am getting FUCKED UP". It is just what you do. You proclaim do love it...and you are proud and make a joke of it the next day. And that is why there is a problem with binge drinking. It is a social staple for people ages 16-25 (+/- 3 years).

So what do I think we should do about this? Well everyone reading this is probably thinking "do nothing, duh". But I do think something needs to be done. I do think that places should enforce stricter policies so that it isn't as easy to get totally hammered...and if kids know they are going to get in a lot of trouble, they may not do it (well enough to get caught). But I really think it just has to be a change in culture. Its kind of like obesity...there are a lot of environmental things that can be done, but really it just needs to be a change in the way people view food and activity and how people can learn to enjoy the healthier alternatives...and steer away from the cheap fast food. Young adults need to change the way they view drinking and learn to enjoy just getting drunk and not getting completely hammered...and steer away from the cheap rail liquor.

I have no idea how this problem will get better. And considering children are beginning to drink younger and younger and have crazier stories all the time, I am not sure how it would be possible to make a societal change (which is why it will probably be just regulated stricter because thats a quick solution). But I do think that America has a TON of issues strictly based on our societal values and the culture that we live in. If you provided kids with more places to go to hang out, would they drink less? No...they would just get drunk and then go to these places. Somehow the mindset of getting shitfaced and driving, or getting shitfaced and having sex, or blacking out...basically putting yourself in harms way...that somehow has to be revamped.

But I have no idea how...

1 comment:

  1. Europe is starting to have a problem with binge drinking that doesn't seem like it existed before. (Here's a giant PDF of trends in different contries. p. 137 has the data on binge drinking: I remember hearing something on the radio about it being a big deal that someone at some flash mob party in France died of alcohol poisoning; I feel like going to the hospital is a pretty regular occurance at college parties, and for some people, a badge of honor. I definitely think there's something cultural about the way we drink - that 1 beer feels good, 3 beers feels great, so 10 beers must be amazing - that America might be exporting.