Lesson Plan: Anti-Binge or Anti-Alcohol?

Two recent New York Times opinion pieces shed light on the relationship between binge drinking and the responsibilities faced by parents and their young adult children. The dangers of binge drinking  are reinforced by Paul Steinberg, who stresses that activity’s significant negative effect on cognition and brain development. Citing research conducted by Fulton T. Crews at the University of North Carolina Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, Steinberg notes the “diminished capacity for re-learning and maladaptive decision-making” amongst binge-drinking subjects. This research raises red flags as binge drinking practices gain greater prominence on college campuses and youth environments around the country.

The dangers of binge drinking —  not the consumption of a mere beer, but rather, five, ten, or more drinks in a setting — have raised concerns for parents, as well. Michael Winerip provides an account of a parental checkmate — trying to teach his children responsible drinking practices as they inevitably face risky drinking environments, yet understanding that drinking under the age  of 21, though widespread, is illegal. Winerip proves prohibitionist programs such as D.A.R.E to be ineffective and untimely in equipping young adults with the skills to act responsibly.  However, in the face of increasingly high-risk drinking, even those parents who would never think of allowing their children to consume alcohol, are assuming less prohibitionist and more realistic stances. Other parents, who chose to turn a blind eye, have attempted to establish household policies that place harsh punishments on binge drinking offenses, rather than the consumption of a single alcoholic beverage in a controlled environment. Prohibition does not work. Without state-level adjustments in the legal age of alcohol consumption, parents must continue to walk this fine line between guidance and safety, prohibition and binge.

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