Archive for December, 2009

[CR] Week in Review (with year-end video!)

Friday, December 18th, 2009

2009 has been a very successful year for Choose Responsibility. From our feature stories on 60 Minutes and The Colbert Report to our participation in major policy conferences and the launch of the Get REAL campaign, [CR] was able to bring the drinking age debate to wider audiences than ever before. For a summary of our activities this year, please take a few minutes to watch this video with [CR] President John McCardell:

Stories this week:

[CR] board member Barrett Seaman recently contributed an opinion piece on the drinking age for Hamilton College’s Alumni Review. Check out “The Case Against 21: A Report from the Front Lines” to get his take on the issue.

In case you missed them, several media outlets in California covered the issue of binge drinking by young adults and recent cases of alcohol poisoning deaths this week. Visit the San Jose Mercury News to see the troubling trends in these cases, and check out the Los Angeles Times for a report on new research that tracks rates of extreme binge drinking. The editors of the Pasadena Star-News also wrote a response to a recent local alcohol-related death: “From tragedy comes chance to educate.”

Peter Nathan, a former provost at the University of Iowa, stressed the importance of parental involvement and research in any efforts to curb binge drinking in his op-ed response to the Daily Iowan’s investigative report on campus binge drinking.

In other news…

Ann-Elise Henzl of WUWM-FM, Milwaukee Public Radio, reported on some new changes to drunk driving laws in Wisconsin, which will include ignition interlocks mandates for all repeat offenders.

Prevention officials and advocates in North Dakota are proposing a ballot initiative that would raise the state’s taxes on alcohol, allocating a portion of the new tax revenues to the Governor’s Prevention Advisory Council on Drugs and Alcohol. In a 2006-2007 survey compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, North Dakota had the highest rate of underage binge drinking in the country at 29.5%. What’s your take on this proposed ballot initiative?

Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to Choose Responsibility to support our efforts in 2010. Happy Holidays!

LA Times “Booster Shots” on Extreme Binge Drinking

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

On Tuesday, Melissa Healy of the Los Angeles Times‘ “Booster Shots” health blog reported on some new survey results which show that extreme binge drinking among high school seniors is more common than most parents think. For some details, she spoke to University of Michigan researcher Lloyd Johnston, who oversees the annual Monitoring the Future survey that tracks alcohol and drug use by teenagers and young adults:

“High school seniors have been asked in recent years about rates of ‘extreme binge drinking’ — the consumption of more than 10 or more than 15 drinks on a single occasion.How many do it? Johnston said Monday that in the two weeks before completing the survey, 11% of high school seniors said they had consumed more than 10 alcoholic drinks in a single sitting, and 6% said they had consumed more than 15.”

Healy noted that this type of extreme drinking may have played a role in the death of Aydin Salek, a high school senior from South Pasadena, last weekend.

Check out the rest of Healy’s post and leave your feedback in the comments.

Mercury News: Binge Drinking Up Among CA Teens

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Over the weekend, Linda Goldston of the San Jose Mercury News reported on the rising trends in binge drinking and alcohol-related deaths among teens in California. She profiled a local teen who recently passed away after a night of heavy drinking, and used that incident to shed light on the larger toxic drinking culture. According to some local prevention officials, drinking among young people has become goal-oriented, which often leads to dangerous outcomes:

“Hard liquor has replaced beer as the alcohol that teens reach for, and vodka is the drink of choice, several experts said. By consuming some of the many sweet drinks with vodka aimed at the youth market, or mixing vodka with cola or orange juice, young drinkers can consume large amounts without tasting the alcohol.”

Statistics from the California Department of Public Health show that both binge drinking and alcohol poisoning deaths are still trending upward despite some declines in recent years:

Check out the rest of the article and leave your feedback in the comments section.

Daily Kansan on Binge Drinking at Univ. of Kansas

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Earlier this week, Ray Sagebrecht of the Daily Kansan at the University of Kansas profiled the campus drinking culture and investigated some administrative efforts to curb dangerous alcohol consumption. John Drees, a registered nurse at the Lawrence Medical Center, told Sagebrecht that he has seen excessive drinking become increasingly popular during his 10 years working in the hospital’s emergency room:

“Every year at the hospital, Drees said, the number of alcohol poisoning cases increases, and from 2000 to 2008, it shot up by 59 percent. By 2008, he said more than 1,500 patients came in for an alcohol-related health problem, 600 of which were University students. Drees said the most common age of alcohol poisoning patients was 18, the same as a typical college freshman.

‘Most of the times they didn’t set out that night to end up in the emergency department,” Drees said. “Their idea was to have fun, but unfortunately they’re not having fun.'”

Drees said he believes overindulgence has become synonymous with fun – a cultural shift which has helped create many of the alcohol-related problems on campus.

Check out the rest of the article and let us know what you think in the comments.

Daily Iowan: “The Siren Song of Alcohol”

Monday, December 7th, 2009

This morning, Danny Valentine and a team of reporters at the Daily Iowan published a front-page feature on the worsening problem of toxic drinking at the University of Iowa. The team of writers studied University survey results, spent time riding in ambulances with local emergency medical crews, and interviewed Iowa students to produce a grim picture of the campus drinking culture. Here are a few highlights from the story:

  • The average range of blood-alcohol concentrations for students with alcohol-related violations referred to Health Iowa, a branch of the UI Student Health Service, rose from 0.13-0.17 to 0.18-0.25 in the most recent five-year period.
  • Alcohol-related ambulance calls to downtown are up 21.4 percent, a jump from 238 to 289 in the last five years.
  • The amount of dangerous drinking has become so severe that the number of calls are putting a strain on the ambulance service. It has been hit with a 37 percent increase in overall calls to downtown, a jump of nearly 200 in five years.

Former UI Provost Peter Nathan warned of a “tipping point” that could lead to a “rash of serious crime, or there will be some deaths, and the City Council will do something draconian — or the university will try to do something very, very strict. And those things would not be successful.”

The paper’s editorial board called the story “stunning,” and proposed a shift in focus for campus alcohol policies: “Merely focusing on underage drinkers possessing alcohol clouds the true problem: overconsumption.” They also implored students to take control of the situation:

“We should be adamant about discouraging the unmitigated drinking culture on this campus. We should roll our eyes at, rather than venerate, tales of black-out drunk escapades. When you know your friend has had one too many Bud Lights, don’t be silent. Positive peer pressure needs to overtake the ‘too much is never enough’ mentality.”

Read the rest of the editorial for a list of the other changes that the editorial board recommended, and then leave your own suggestions in the comments.

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Yesterday, [CR] President John McCardell spoke to Martin DiCaro of NJ 101.5 FM about the recently-proposed New Jersey Task Force on Underage Drinking in Higher Education, whose commission was approved by the state’s Assembly Education Committee this week. Dr. McCardell said the task force should be willing to consider all possible options: “If such a group were willing to look at all the data and at least consider the possibility that the 21 year old drinking age has something more than nothing to do with the problem of alcohol consumption, then I think it’s worthwhile.” Check out the rest of the interview here.  And a quick reminder: are you looking for some extra stocking-stuffers or holiday gifts to supplement last week’s Black Friday purchases? This holiday season, [CR] is discounting all of the merchandise in our online store. Check out our inventory to find the perfect gift for a supporter of the drinking age debate, and while you’re browsing, you can catch up on this week’s other headlines:

Stories this week:

Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of the alcohol poisoning death of Cal Poly first-year student Carson Starkey. Starkey was a Texas resident, and this week the members of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission implemented a medical amnesty policy that has been under consideration since Starkey’s death. TABC Director of Communications and Governmental Relations Carolyn Beck told News 8 Austin’s Karina Kling, “When someone calls 911 and there’s a medical emergency, the priority is the victim and getting the medical attention they need, not passing out Class C misdemeanors because somebody’s drinking a beer and they’re underage.” Check out News West 9 for more on the new policy, and read the TABC’s fact sheet on the signs of alcohol poisoning.

The Student Government Association at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota has passed a resolution calling for SCSU President Earl Potter to sign the Amethyst Initiative and launch a campus-wide discussion about the consequences of current alcohol policies. SGA member Jacqueline Silseth said that the resolution is a response to student demands: “We are just doing this to try and reflect the wishes of the student body. Especially in the upper mid-West, we have got a higher drinking rate than the rest of the country. This is something that is really pertinent to our region.”

Other student governments are taking up similar issues with their own resolutions: at the University of Kansas, the Student Senate formally called for a full review of campus alcohol policies with the goal of curbing abusive drinking. A senate subcommittee created a survey to get student feedback on the effectiveness of current policies, and with the passage of the resolution, the subcommittee’s findings will go to the administration for review.

Joan Barron discussed the history of Legal Age 21 and Wyoming’s age of majority in a recent edition of the Casper Star-Tribune.

In other news…

The editors of the Seattle Times argued that the recent FDA investigation of caffeinated alcoholic beverages cast a “much-needed spotlight” on the drinks, which they said should eventually be banned. What’s your take on this issue?

Time’s new list of the “Top Ten People Caught on Facebook” includes underage drinkers who draw the attention of law enforcement when they post pictures of their drinking activities online.

Did you notice something missing in this week’s update? Leave a link in the comments section.

Stars and Stripes: Officers in S. Korea Consider Lower Drinking Age

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Military officers in South Korea are considering some changes to alcohol policies for enlisted servicemembers, according to a recent report in Stars and Stripes. Maj. Gen. Michael Tucker and other officials are trying to change the culture of toxic drinking among young soldiers, who routinely “‘go downtown and get pickled’ before ‘stumbling back to the barracks.'” Currently, the drinking age for servicemembers is 21, but the drinking age in South Korea is 19. Tucker would like to close this gap in order to discourage irresponsible, secretive drinking. The proposed changes include a lower drinking age of 19, adjustments to blood-alcohol limitations, and new curfew hours, along with a “three strikes” policy of increasing punishment for violations.

Tucker told Stars and Stripes reporter John Rabiroff that “What we’re doing right now is not working” and that “we have to educate them. We want them to think.” If approved, these changes would be the subject of a six-month trial period.

What do you think of these proposed changes? Let us know in the comments.