Archive for the 'Is 21 Working?' Category

Presbyterian College football player dies from alcohol intoxication

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Kyle Allen, a Presbyterian College football star, died on Sunday morning of alcohol induced respiratory failure the Florida Times Union reported. Allen was a standout athlete and student who garnered numerous accolades from his peers.

Although Allen had recently turned 21, his death demonstrates that the current drinking age does not teach students to drink, and live, responsibly. Unfortunately, deaths related to alcohol or alcohol poisoning are no stranger to college campuses. This news, paired with the CDC’s recent report that binge drinking remains prevalent after college, proves the need to reevaluate the effectiveness of the 21 year old drinking age. Is 21 actually saving lives?

Experts, students to debate the drinking age

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Barrett Seaman, author ofBinge, and Dr. William Dejong, professor at Boston University School of Public Health, will debate the 21 year old drinking age in an open forum at Sonoma State University on February 13. College students will have the opportunity in this open forum to make their voices heard and to speak candidly about drinking on their campus. Read the full article here.

Parents Required at HS Football Game

Friday, September 19th, 2008

Yesterday, reported that Lincoln-Sudbury (MA) High School administrators responded to an underage drinking incident at last week’s football game by instituting a new policy – for tonight’s game, students who want to attend the game must be accompanied by a parent. The policy increases parental involvement in their students’ exposure to alcohol, and perhaps more importantly illustrates the limits that law enforcement officials face in trying to crack down on underage drinking. Boston-area radio station WBUR spoke with Lincoln-Sudbury Superintendent and Principal Jon Ritchie today, and the audio of that interview is available here. MADD Massachusetts spokesman David Diolis reacted to the story by saying, “I think that the important thing that’s happening here is that they’re raising a dialogue, and they’re also raising awareness among the teen’s parents that perhaps there’s a problem. Often times parents are the last ones to know that their teens are drinking or that they perhaps they even have a problem with alcohol.” As Diolis suggested, parents are often in the dark about their young adults’ drinking habits – and the current alcohol laws prohibit these parents from taking proactive steps to help their students learn responsible habits. Why not involve parents earlier, before students drink in dangerous situations and away from supervision?

Binge Drinking Deaths Increasing

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

A new Associated Press study, announced yesterday, has revealed that 157 college-age people (aged 18 to 23) drank themselves to death between 1999 and 2005, and that the number of alcohol-poisoning deaths per year rose from 18 in 1999 to 35 in 2005.  Interestingly, 83 of the people who died were under the legal drinking age of 21. 

Additional analysis revealed that college students are more likely to die from binge drinking-related alcohol poisoning than non-college students, and that freshmen are most at risk during their first semester at college.  With the legal drinking age set at 21, people (especially underage drinkers) are dying from binge drinking, and the number of deaths is continuing to climb due to the common mentality of “if you’re under 21 and someone’s got alcohol, you’ve got to drink it, because you never know when somebody’s going to have it again.”   

Some colleges have begun to adopt programs to educate students about responsible drinking—an important first step that will hopefully have some good consequences in the future.  Regardless, this new study really points out a vital question:  Is 21 working?

New Study Examines Legal Age 21

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

A new study, published in Accident Analysis and Prevention, has examined minimum legal drinking age 21 and drunk driving fatalities over the last few decades, and concludes that there has been decreases in teen drunk driving fatalities since MLDA 21 went into effect.  The study also reports that laws enforcing strict punishment for the use of fake IDs are significantly effective in reducing drunk driving fatalities, according to U.S. News & World Report.  Interestingly, one of the primary researchers for the study is a former board member for MADD…

This review by U.S. News & World Report is a prologue to an upcoming, larger article on teen brain research and the role of alcohol.  We are interested to see what the authors come up with, and will keep you posted on the status of that piece.

Study: Kids Receiving Alcohol from Parents and Other Adults

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

The results of a nationwide survey looking at the social context of underage alcohol use, performed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, were released today.  This National Survey on Drug Use and Health looked at many aspects of alcohol use and drinking behaviors amongst 12-20 year olds, and the major finding capturing the headlines is that underage drinkers are obtaining alcohol from adults, including parents and guardians.  Blaming parents and adult family members for underage alcohol use and labeling them as “enablers” may be a hasty conclusion, however.  The study indicates that 40% of underage drinkers obtained alcohol from an adult (someone over 21) for free in the past month.  However, one in four youths received alcohol from an unknown adult, and only one in twelve youths received alcohol from a parent or guardian. 


More importantly, the study does not clearly specify how parents are giving their kids alcohol.  A glass of wine at a family dinner might be statistically the same as a mother buying a keg for a son’s graduation party; however, the implications of these actions are much different.  Conclusions from the study stress that parents should be involved by providing proper guidance and ensuring their kids’ safety by preventing them from the dangerous act of drinking.  Is it possible, however, that allowing a son or daughter a glass of wine with dinner helps teach responsible drinking, and thus can be considered parental guidance?  A recent Time Magazine article discussed in a June 20th post does an excellent job debating this issue.

In general, we are having a hard time seeing how the results of this study support a legal age 21.  Kids are finding alcohol and drinking underage, and one in five underage drinkers have binged at least once in the last month.  Moreover, this drinking is happening in private, unsupervised locations, and over half of underage drinkers have drank in someone else’s room or house during the past month.  If you ask us, that is more scary than the fact that some youths are sharing a beer with mom and dad. 

We encourage you to visit this ABC article for more information, links, and comments.

Effects of Stricter Regulations in British Pubs

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

The London subways were a nasty sight on the morning of June 1st due to the impromptu party the previous night, when British teens and young adults celebrated the last hurrah for drinking on public transportation.  The Economist discussed this party and drinking, in general, in a recent article, and noted the changes in drinking patterns of Britain’s youth.  While more teens now report never trying alcohol, those who have tried it are drinking larger quantities, and this is especially true for those 11-13 years old.  Demographic changes have not been drastic enough to explain this shift in drinking behavior, and it is believed that more hostile regulations on drinking in pubs and bars have encouraged teens to move their drinking elsewhere, such as the trains, parks, or street corners.  In pubs, people must behave properly in order to prevent being thrown out, and social pressures and norms tend to keep people in line and behaving according to the status quo.  Supervision and social restraint disappear when teens drink in private and are more free to do whatever they want, get as drunk as they want, etc.  Along with increases in quantity of alcohol consumed, spirits are now more common than ever before.  They also tend to be consumed when teens drink on their own, and not in pubs which often offer more beer and wine. 

We believe that these points echo our own ideas about the drinking age in the U.S. since, just as British young adults want to avoid the strict bars and drink on their own, Americans who cannot enter bars and legally drink also turn to drinking on their own.  Dangerous binge drinking often results, which can get out of control due to a lack of monitoring and supervision at private parties.  Lowering the drinking age could help prevent binge drinking by allowing young adults an opportunity to drink in public settings (bars, restaurants) where they might feel it is more inappropriate to binge drink and get ragingly drunk.  Their behavior could also be better monitored and supervised by others; a bartender is more likely than a drunk friend to cut someone off.

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“Should the Drinking Age be Lowered?” Our response

Friday, June 6th, 2008

We are pleased by the coverage the drinking age received in this week’s issue of Time (“Should the Drinking Age be Lowered?,” June 16, 2008), but feel that there is more to be said about the several points John Cloud makes to defend his conclusion that challenging the 21 year-old drinking age is a misguided endeavor

• “First of all, while binge drinking is a serious problem, the data do not show that it has gotten worse since states raised their drinking ages” Well, frankly, that depends on where you’re looking. According to the CDC, 18-20 year-olds experienced the steepest increase in binge drinking rates—56%–between 1993 and 2001. Amongst the entire population of underage drinkers (12-20 year-olds, as according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health), overall rates of binge drinking increased from 15.2% to 18.9% between 1991 and 2003. During the same time period, there was a steady decline in the prevalence of alcohol consumption among 12-20 year-olds. While fewer young people are drinking, those who choose to drink are drinking more, and drinking more recklessly. Neither by these indications, nor those Mr. Cloud presents in his essay has the 21 year-old drinking age and the current approach to educating young people about responsible alcohol use had the intended effect of reducing both the use and misuse of alcohol among adolescents and young adults.
• “No researchers have documented an increase in the percentage of alcohol-poisoning deaths among college students, although the raw number has probably increased with the growing college population.” In fact, several well-regarded, widely cited studies have looked at the rate of non-traffic, alcohol related injury deaths among young adults. Their findings? Between 1998 and 2001, these deaths increased from 991 to 1151—a rise of 16%, with the indication of a continued upward trend at a rate outpacing the size of the population. An increasing number of lives are being lost to alcohol off the highways, and surely these lives deserve as much consideration in this argument as those lost on the highways.
• “Choose Responsibility supporters have also claimed that other countries that haven’t raised their drinking ages — including Canada and the United Kingdom — saw their drunk-driving fatalities drop even faster than in the U.S. But that’s simply not true.” Canada, which is for many reasons the most comparable nation to the United States in terms of driving habits and cultural tendencies, experienced a 28% decline in alcohol related traffic fatalities between 1982 and 1992. In this same time period, which represents the most substantive decline in traffic fatalities since data was first gathered, the United States experienced a 26% decline. Though it varies by province, the drinking age across Canada is either 18 or 19 and remained as such throughout the time period in question. Furthermore, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has noted that where youth drinking and driving is concerned, Canadian reductions followed a virtually identical pattern to the United States. Their conclusion? “This means that the changes [in youth drinking and driving rates in the US and Canada] must have resulted from some combination of the difficult-to-assess educational and motivational programs and from other factors outside of traffic safety. This conclusion suggests that a substantial portion of the reduction in the United States also resulted from these same causes”

To clarify in a more general sense, Choose Responsibility believes foremost that the 21 year-old drinking age is a policy whose intended and unintended consequences must be considered side by side, and that cause and effect relationships drawn between it and measurements of a its success—namely the decline in alcohol related traffic fatalities seen throughout the 1980s and early 1990s—must be extended to the many other areas of our society that this law has affected. To ignore the reality that excessive, reckless alcohol use among young people has either remained impervious to change or increased in the past decade is to minimize the very real threat that such behaviors pose to all Americans, regardless of their age.

We do not believe, as Mr. Cloud suggests, that lowering the drinking age would immediately address the pervasive binge drinking culture endemic to young people in America. We do believe that alcohol education is sorely lacking in its ability to prepare young people for the realities they will face in adult life, which for all will involve decisions about the role of alcohol. We do believe that there are better ways to ensure young people have the ability to make responsible decisions about alcohol use than our current prohibitionist tack. Given this, we ultimately believe that the time has come for new voices and fresh ideas in the debate over the legal drinking age—that much, Mr. Cloud has correct.

62 High Schoolers arrested at post-prom bash

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

Over 100 high-school students from New Jersey were caught and breathalyzed this past Friday night when police broke up a party in West Dover, VT, the Rutland Herald reported on Sunday. The police ended what was supposed to be a three-day after-prom party, taking place at three houses that the teens had rented, and 62 students received citations for being in possession of a malt beverage. Such a large scale party once again brings to light the issues of underage drinking and binge drinking, and the party’s isolated location in Southern Vermont highlights the problem of the secretiveness, stealth, and complex planning that often accompanies underage drinking—something that can increase its dangerousness.

The New Jersey teens are most likely juniors and seniors in high school and, therefore, would still be unable to drink even if the drinking age was 18. However, the furtive nature of their party and the huge quantity of alcohol present (police found 18 kegs of beer, 8 bottles of vodka, and 5 cases of beer) demonstrates a culture of secret binge drinking characterized by strategic planning, execution, and excessiveness that transcends the high-school/college boundary and is present amongst high school and college students, alike. Not being allowed to drink in public, such as at bars and restaurants, fuels this binge drinking culture, as young adults are driven to drink heavily in short amounts of time, in an attempt to “pre-game” parties and events.

The recent Vermont party also raises the issue of parental enabling of underage drinking, since the fact that the teens had three rented houses and such a large amount of alcohol suggests that parents may have been involved in planning the party. Recently, social host laws have been enacted in some communities to try and inhibit this parental involvement by claiming that parents will be held responsible and steeply fined for underage drinking in their homes. As the details of the Vermont party are investigated further, more information as to the involvement of parents will hopefully become available.

USA Today and Science

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Science does not stand alone — its findings become meaningful when viewed at large, not selectively, and when its formulas are placed in an everyday context, and its principles critically evaluated. By claiming that science rests on one side of the drinking age question, and neglecting the scientific and mathematical findings that disprove its case, the authors of yesterday’s editorial in USA Today illustrate a narrow-minded view of science. The authors’ attempts to crouch behind science are even more disappointing, having admitted in the first half of their article the dangerous unintended consequences generated by Legal Age 21.

If science supports the pro-21 argument, then why do the other 50 studies (surely, not cited by the newspaper) fail to support a cause-and-effect relationship between a higher drinking age and lower fatalities? If science proves that the 21 year-old drinking age is responsible for a decline in traffic fatalities and consequently, lives saved, then why have more lives been saved by seat belts and airbags in 2004 and 2005 than in the entire history of Legal Age 21? And further, how would the authors and MADD explain the (scientific) fact that alcohol-related fatalities have reached their highest level in the last decade?

 Then there is the social reality of alcohol in the lives of young adults — made more difficult and dangerous by Legal Age 21.  Drinking has been forced out of the open, into unsupervised venues where risky binge drinking has become the norm. Why are young adults, excelling in many other ways, choosing to put their lives at risk by consuming dangerous quantities of alcohol? The answer is tied to a scientific term called reactance motivation, and a certain historical movement called Prohibition. If we infantalize individuals who in all other instances are considered adults, it is not a surprise that we receive increasingly infantile behavior. Over 1,000 young adults aged 18-24 die every year from alcohol-related causes taking place off the roads and highways — victims of risky drinking practices. These dangerous consumption patterns are documented and widespread, and bear anatomical and neurological consequences far outweighing those associated with the moderate consumption of alcohol.

 Science does not rest on either side of the question, and needs to be evaluated seriously and realistically. There are too many questions left unanswered, and too many lives lost, to risk using limited science as a shield from social reality.