Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Drinking age controversy

The drinking age controversy is headline news as several leaders of higher education have joined together to support the Amethyst Initiative (please see College chiefs urge new debate on drinking age). The initiative supports an informed debate on the legal drinking age of 21-years-old. The reason for debate surrounding the drinking age is that some believe that the current laws encourage dangerous binge drinking. By lowering the drinking age to 18, some believe that young people would abuse alcohol less because it wouldn't be forbidden to drink it at 18-years-old. Research currently suggests that the highest rates of binge drinking on college campuses are found in underage students*. There are two schools of thought surrounding that fact. Some argue that lowering the drinking age will diminish those years of binge drinking. Others believe that lowering the drinking age would encourage higher rates of binge drinking amongst even younger adolescence.
There is a TON of research surrounding college and underage drinking. In fact, my graduate school tuition was paid by the university (The Ohio State University) because I worked with researchers to combat alcohol abuse on our campus. Because I was very much invested in bettering my school's alcohol culture, I was offended by a remark made by Laura Dean-Mooney, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Gordon E. Gee, the president of my alma mater, is a supporter of the Amethyst Initiative. Dean-Mooney, an opposer of the initiative, stated, "it's very clear the 21-year-old drinking age will not be enforced at those campuses." However wrong she is! OSU faculty and staff work their butts off to reduce alcohol related concerns on campus. Over the last few years, they have implemented a comprehensive prevention plan that incorporates suggestions recommended by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to reduce alcohol and other drug abuse on campus, and their efforts are working (not to mention, the plan includes enforcement of the current drinking age)! For more information on this plan and its success, please visit OSU's Student Wellness Center's website
I am torn on the drinking age debate, but if we are going to move forward on this issue, people need to get their facts straight! Whether or not the drinking age is the main problem, colleges and universities such as OSU are spending millions of dollars to reduce alcohol abuse on their campuses - and many of them are succeeding! Just because the president of the university encourages a discussion regarding the legal drinking age does not mean that the entire campus is going to stop enforcing the current law. That is ludicrous. And if MADD wants to maintain credibility, it is in their best interest to respect the progress being made on campuses nationwide.
*Naimi TS, Brewer RD, Mokdad A, Clark D, Serdula MK, Marks JS. Binge drinking among US adults. JAMA 2003;289(1):70–75.

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