30 years after its signing, CNN highlights the MLDA discussion

“It’s taking place behind closed doors, where it’s much more dangerous. It’s unsupervised,” [McCardell] said. “It’s out of step with social reality.”

In its 30th year of existence, CNN summarizes the debate on the legal drinking age here

How is today’s discussion different from the one held in 1984?

CR President on HuffPost Live!

Choose Responsibility President Barrett Seaman recently participated in a HuffPost Live conversation on the legal blood alcohol limit in the United States. The conversation, consisting of Seaman, Deanna Russo (Executive Director at Crusade Against Impaired Driving); John Celock (HuffPost State Government Reporter); J.T. Griffin (Senior VP for Public Policy at MADD); and Dr. Barron H. Lerner (Associate Professor, College of Physicians and Surgeons), questioned whether or not .08 is an appropriate BAC level.

CR holds the belief that lowering the BAC and more stringently enforcing the law is a better approach to saving lives that a heightened BAC.

View the entire interview here, and let us know what you think.

Washington bill will allow tasting in classes for teens

Washington senators are advancing a proposal that would allow older teenagers to taste alcohol in culinary, beer technology, or similar community college classes. If passed, the bill will enable 18-20 year olds to better understand their course work by responsibly (and under supervision) tasting (though they are not supposed to consume) alcohol.

Though the bill’s intent is to enhance the educational experience of these students and better prepare them for their careers, it has the potential to indirectly promote responsibility by removing the mystique surrounding alcohol for under age drinkers.

No alcohol, at all

Milwaukee Area Technical College’s vice-president of student services, Dr. Trevor Kubatzke, has said he will sign off on a policy to eliminate alcohol at all events run by student organizations. Though students have spoken out against the “No Alcohol” policy, Kubatze argues that alcohol does not contribute to student events and hence should be eliminated:

When we’re planning events that are educational in venue, or a learning experience, alcohol doesn’t bring anything to the table. We shouldn’t be planning events where the focus is alcohol so, where we are today, there really isn’t a need to have alcohol at our student events.

Kubatze’s argument seems to be based on one school of thought about alcohol. However, he does not comment on other–or better–avenues to imbue his students with a sense of responsibility. Though college, we would argue, is about acquiring knowledge, it is also about acquiring life skills.

CR President Barrett Seaman on HuffPost Live TODAY!

CR President Barrett Seaman will participate in a conversation on HuffPost live TODAY at 12.30pm ET to discuss Colorado State Senator Greg Brophy’s proposed bill to legalize consumption for people 18-20 in the presence of their parents. According to the Huffington Post, the bill comes from the place of a concerned parent who sees the difficulty in imbuing his child with responsibility if he cannot teach her himself. Hence, he proposed the bill after taking his 20 year old daughter to dinner and not being able to share a glass of wine with her. And on Friday, he wrote on his Facebook page,

 Why is it appropriate for the State to deny parents the ability to show their adult kids how to responsibly consume adult beverages in a public setting? Those same kids are often turned completely loose to attend college hundreds of miles from home and completely unsupervised. Those same kids will be able to consume adult beverages completely unfettered on their 21st birthday. (ignoring the fact that they will have nearly unfettered access between the time they leave your home and that 21st birthday) Why on earth would you want to deny responsible parents the chance to expose their own kids to the effects of this product while with their parents?

Senator Brophy has taken a bold step towards empowering parents to teach their children to drink alcohol responsibly BEFORE they are “taught” to drink by their peers. Watch Barrett Seaman respond on HuffPost Live today by clicking here.


Inmates sue alcoholic beverage companies

Five inmates from Idaho are suing several alcohol producers for allegedly duping them about the effects of alcohol. Their $1 billion law suit is based on the premise that alcohol caused the inmates’ crimes. They also argue that they would never have had a drink had they known that drinking could lead to alcoholism. The inmates fail to comment on their own personal responsibility.

Read the full article here.

A sobering beginning

Happy New Year on behalf of the entire Choose Responsibility team. I hope your holidays were as meaningful and restful as mine. A new year means a clean slate for many things–workout regimens, healthier eating–but unfortunately the facts surrounding America’s drinking culture are not wiped clean.

A recent Forbes article by David Skorton (Cornell University President) and Glenn Altschuler (Cornell University Dean) paints a vivid picture of high-risk college drinking and comments on the consequences of students teaching each other to drink. In questioning whether students arrive at college as heavy drinkers or become heavy drinkers once they matriculate, the authors concede,

…college life may cause individual students to dial up the amount and frequency with which they drink. “A Call to Action: Changing the culture of drinking at U.S. colleges,” a report by the NIAAA-supported Task Force on College Drinking, presents evidence of higher alcohol use among undergraduates than peers who do not attend college and attributes it to a perception of alcohol as central to college life. Arriving on campus anxious to establish their place in a new setting, first-year students learn from upperclass men and women “that alcohol is a necessary ingredient for social success. These beliefs and the expectations they engender exert a powerful influence over students’ behavior toward alcohol.

Unwiling to conclude without a call to action, Skorten and Altschuler concede ask parents to have a candid conversation with their children about their drinking, their children’s drinking, and their children’s peers. Many parents are unaware of the way college drinking has changed since their own undergraduate years, and they might be surprised by what their students have to say.



Sending our thoughts

On behalf of Choose Responsibility, I send my thoughts to the families and communities of the victims of Friday’s tragedy in Newtown, CT. I have cried for you, and hugged my loved ones tighter in your honor.



Military Drinking, part 2

A few months ago, I wrote about binge drinking in the military. I often comment about binge drinking as a college, but I do not frequently enough note that binge drinking pervades more than college campuses. The problem does not evaporate with a diploma, nor does it come upon matriculation as the military has recently become more aware. The Institute of Medicine released a report in September 2012 that noted that the Department of Defense should take appropriate measures to modernize its approach to alcohol abuse in the military. Charles P. O’Brian, chair of the panel that authored the report, noted that at the report’s writing, the Army only had one specialist to trained to treat addiction despite that, the report noted, “drunken soldiers” have been a problem since the Revolutionary War.

Since the report’s release, individual branches of the service have begun making efforts to modernize their approach. According to NBC, “The Marines, starting next year, will give random breathalyzer tests to Corps members; the Air Force and Army curbed some overnight liquor sales for U.S. military personnel in Germany; and American service members in Japan were barredfrom leaving their residences after consuming more than one adult beverage.” According to the report, 47% of active duty service members binge drank in 2008.

Is binge drinking genetic?

Scientists have published findings in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal which point to a genetic variation that can lead to an increase in binge drinking in teens. The gene known as RASGRF-2 plays a crucial role in making people more likely to be heavy drinkers. People drinking alcohol experience activation of the brain’s dopamine system, giving them feelings of pleasure and reward.  The research suggests that people with a genetic variation on the RASGRF-2 gene release more dopamine with anticipation of a reward, such as alcohol.

Brain scans of 663 14-year old boys found that those with variations in the RASGRAF-2 gene have more activity in an area of the brain closely linked to the release of dopamine. In order to confirm the findings, the same teens were analyzed at age 16 and those with the gene variation drank more often than those without it. This insight into teens has the potential for greater risk analysis and mitigation of alcohol abuse. However, if parents and educators are aware of a teenager’s susceptibility but not legally able to facilitate a conversation surrounding its risks, they are at a loss for helping him or her overcome the genetic predisposition.