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Limiting Teenage Drinking, or Trying

3 additions to document , most recent about 1 year ago

When Why
Oct-23-18 Return the Drinking age to 18, and enforce it.
Oct-23-18 The Debate about lowering the drinking age
Nov-02-18 Age 21 Minimum Legal Drinking Age

ONE morning at the crack of dawn, when my twin boys were 5 years old, they bounded into our bedroom in their striped pajamas and started singing a “Say No to Drugs” song they had learned at school. This alarmed me. Not because I wanted them singing a say yes to drugs song. But wasn’t this a little young to start the indoctrination?

“What’s drugs?” I asked. They looked at each other. Clearly, this had never occurred to them. “Are we saying no to aspirin?” I asked. “We give you aspirin when you’re sick.”

“Why don’t we say no to bugs?” I suggested, improvising a few bars. They were stunned, speechless. “Or how about say no to hugs?” and I jumped out of bed and chased them down the hallway threatening to hug them to smithereens while they sang their new “Say No to Hugs” song.

Annie, my youngest, was about the same age, when, on the way home from a T-ball game, she asked if I had noticed that one of the girls’ mothers was smoking.

“Dad is she know... a bad person?” Annie asked.

Now, I’ve never smoked a cigarette and don’t want my kids smoking, but given all the world’s stresses, if other people want to smoke, as long as they’re not blowing it in another person’s face, that’s their business, as far as I’m concerned.

Continue reading the main story

As my boys grew into teenagers, they started to understand that these things were complicated. They realized that what they had been taught was “evil,” must not actually be “evil,” since they saw friends and adults whom they knew to be good human beings doing some of those things.

And that brings me to one of the hardest challenges I’ve encountered as a parent: How to deal with my three teenage sons (ages 17, 17 and 19) on the issue that’s been the stickler in our house, drinking. I want to be clear, I think they are pretty typical, and what I’m talking about is occasional social drinking with their friends. According to the University of Michigan’s annual behavioral survey of 50,000 high school students, 47 percent of male seniors (41 percent of female seniors) report alcohol use in the previous 30 days; 32 percent of male seniors (and 26 percent of female seniors) report being drunk in the previous 30 days.

As a parent, I don’t know what’s O.K. All of it is illegal; they’re not 21. Is any drinking all right if they’re breaking the law? If, on the other hand, teenagers will be teenagers and some drinking is fine and normal, how much is? How often? It’s not O.K. if they get sick, as all have done at least once and been grounded. Is it O.K. if they come home and I can’t tell from 10 feet away?

I’m not talking about drinking and driving or getting in a car with a kid who’s been drinking. That’s easy for a parent. That’s black and white: You don’t do it. They know about the designated driver, a public education campaign that was not around when I was a kid and, I believe, has made an enormous positive impact. I’ve told my kids that if for some reason, they go some place in the car and drink, they are not to get back in the car. Call home and we’ll come pick you up at any hour. Take a taxi or train, we’ll pay for it. Just DO NOT DRIVE.

In fact, I have a pretty good idea when they may be planning to drink. They don’t take the car. They go out for the night on their bikes. On a Friday or Saturday night, when I see them getting the bikes out of the garage, I ask, “Are you drinking?” and they roll their eyes, “Come on, Dad.” And before I can respond, they’re around the corner.

How do you teach a teenager moderation?

Of course, you try to model behavior. My wife and I don’t drink excessively, don’t drink that often, and when we do, it’s a couple of beers, or a glass of wine. And while I have confidence this may be the best weapon in the long run, I do not in the short run when it comes to teenagers. There are just too many hormones involved.

I know there are teenagers who don’t drink. I was that kid in high school. I didn’t drink or smoke pot until college. I truly don’t know why I didn’t, lots of kids in my hometown did. For whatever reason, I was slow to develop on many fronts. For whatever reason, my boys are moving faster.

I don’t think the legal drinking age has a lot to do with any of this; when I was a teenager and the legal age was 18, teenagers drank a lot, and they do now, when it’s 21. I don’t know exactly where they get it — an older kid, I assume, or a parent’s liquor cabinet — but it’s clearly not hard. In the 2007 Michigan survey 92 percent of high school seniors said alcohol was “very easy” to get.

Nor do I think this is about positive self-image or having too much free time. All three boys are good students and athletes who play a sport every season, and in the summer work six days a week, 10 hours a day.

I worry, because as a reporter, I’ve covered too many stories where very bad things happened to very good kids who drank too much. I’m particularly haunted by a piece I did a decade ago. An honors student at the University of Virginia, who passed out from drinking, was left in her bed by friends, and when she came to, alone and in a fog, fell down a flight of stairs and died.

My kids know the story, and I’m pleased that all three at various times have gotten help for kids they knew who were either staggering drunk or passed out.

A therapist I consulted suggested setting a limit of, say, two beers. This made me uncomfortable. I felt I was condoning something that in my heart, I didn’t want to condone. But since they had drunk to excess, I tried it. I told them I could put up with a couple of beers a night, a couple of times a month, but if it was any more — basically if they’d drunk enough so I could tell they’d been drinking — they’d be grounded.

It’s turned into a cat-and-mouse game. Twice, my wife and I have come home from a night out and they’ve failed the sandal test. If I walk around on our hardwood floors and my sandals stick, I know they’ve spilled beer and they’re grounded. A couple of times they’ve come in and I can tell from sniffing or by their speech that they’ve had more than two, and they’re grounded.

Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t happen that often. They’re wonderful kids. They’re usually home by their midnight weekend curfew and call if they’re going to be late. Often (but not always) when I ask, they tell me the truth even though they know they’ll be punished. “Four or five, Dad.” “I had plenty, Dad.”

“Grounded, boys.”

I hate this. I feel like I’ve handled it badly. Trying to find a middle, moderate ground — I’m not happy and they’re not. They tell me I’m “psycho.” They tell me other parents are much better about trusting their kids. They tell me they’re sick and tired of living in Nazi Germany.

If any of you has had more success, I’d love to know.

For now, if it’s Friday or Saturday night, and I hear the garage door open and see them hop on their bikes, I dread it, because I know, come midnight, I’ll have to play detective.

DMU Timestamp: September 17, 2018 17:21

Added October 23, 2018 at 2:10pm by ozzie valdez
Title: Return the Drinking age to 18, and enforce it.

Return the drinking age to 18 -- and then enforce the law. The current system, which forbids alcohol to Americans under 21, is widely flouted, with disastrous consequences. Teaching people to drink responsibly before they turn 21 would enormously enhance public health. Now, high school and college kids view dangerous binge drinking as a rite of passage.

The current law, passed in all 50 states in the 1980s, was intended to diminish the number of traffic deaths caused by young drunk drivers. It has succeeded in that -- but tougher seatbelt and D.U.I. rules have contributed to the decrease, too. Raising the drinking age hasn't reduced drinking -- it’s merely driven it underground, to the riskiest of settings: unsupervised high school blowouts and fraternity parties that make "Animal House" look quaint. This age segregation leads the drinking away from adults, who could model moderation.

The roots of this extreme drinking lie in our own history. Prohibition, which banned most alcohol in the United States from 1920 to 1933, normalized the frenzied sort of drinking that occurs today at college parties. In speakeasies and blind pigs, the goal was to drink as much and as soon as possible, because you never knew when the feds would show up. Today's law, likewise, encourages young people to dodge the system. Like Prohibition -- and abstinence-only sex education -- it’s been a dismal failure.

A 2009 study published in The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that between 1998 and 2005, the number of cases of alcohol poisoning deathsamong 18- to 24-year-olds nearly tripled, jumping from 779 cases to 2,290. The study also tracks a rise in fatalities from hypothermia and falls. Some reports link excess drinking to sexual assault.

American 18-year-olds have the right to vote, marry, buy guns and join the military. They're astute enough to defend their country, decide elected officials and serve on a jury -- but not regulate their own appetites? They deserve the chance to learn.

We don't hand teenagers car keys without first educating them about how to drive. Why expect 21-year-olds to learn how to drink responsibly without learning from moderate models, at home and in alcohol education programs?

DMU Timestamp: September 17, 2018 17:21

Added October 23, 2018 at 2:15pm by ozzie valdez
Title: The Debate about lowering the drinking age

Back in 2003, when then-President George W. Bush's 19-year-old daughter was arrested for underage drinking offenses, the debate about lowering the legal drinking age once again came into the national spotlight.

Jenna Bush's two arrests in less than a month for consuming alcohol and trying to purchase alcohol with a fake identification card, placed the drinking age debate in the national media, with the old argument that if an 18-year-old is old enough to vote, sign contracts, join the armed forces, and get married, he or she should be old enough to drink a beer.

"It's one of the stupidest laws in America," Justin Schmid, 21, a student at Southern Methodist University in Dallas told reporters. "You can be drafted by your country, go to war—yet you can't have a beer. You can be tried as an adult—yet you can't have a beer."

But is it that stupid?

The problem with the arguments for lowering the legal drinking age is it is simply not in the best interest of the public's safety to do so. Underage drinkers are a danger to themselves and others, especially on the highways.

We Tried Lowering the Limit Before

The drinking age was first lowered to 18 in many states back in the Vietnam War era. The country was asking thousands of its young men to fight and die for their country on foreign soil, so the popular thinking was, "How can we ask them to die for their country and not let them have a drink if they want one?"

But the lower drinking age begins to take a toll on the nation's highways. The number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities began to rise at alarming rates and a high percentage of those involved young drivers. Congress again put pressure on the states to raise the drinking age because of this startling increase in highway deaths.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that raising the drinking age to 21 has reduced traffic fatalities involving 18- to 20-year-old drivers by 13 percent and has saved an estimated 19,121 lives from 1975 to 2003. Twenty of twenty-nine studies conducted between 1981 and 1992 reported significant decreases in traffic crashes and crash fatalities following an increase in drinking age.

Higher Drinking Age Simply Saves Lives

Over 40 percent of all the 16-to-20-year-olds who died in 1994 were killed in car crashes, half of which were alcohol-related. The number of intoxicated youth drivers in fatal crashes dropped 14.3 percent from 1983 to 1994—the largest decrease of any age group during this time period—indicating that the higher legal drinking age simply saves lives.

The evidence for keeping the drinking age at 21 is so overwhelming, we doubt that we would have had the debate again in 2003 if Jenna Bush was just another college student, rather than the young, attractive daughter of the President of the United States.

And if she had been arrested for causing an accident in which someone was injured or killed, rather than just trying to use a fake ID, we suspect the national media would have come down on the other side of the lower drinking age debate.

DMU Timestamp: September 17, 2018 17:21

Added November 02, 2018 at 1:58pm by ozzie valdez
Title: Age 21 Minimum Legal Drinking Age

A Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) of 21 saves lives and protects health

Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) laws specify the legal age when an individual can purchase or publicly consume alcoholic beverages. The MLDA in the United States is 21 years. However, prior to the enactment of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, the legal age when alcohol could be purchased varied from state to state.1

The age 21 MLDA saves lives and improves health.3

Fewer motor vehicle crashes – States that increased the legal drinking age to 21 saw a 16% median decline in motor vehicle crashes.6

Decreased drinking

  • After all states adopted an age 21 MLDA, drinking during the previous month among persons aged 18 to 20 years declined from 59% in 1985 to 40% in 1991.7
  • Drinking among people aged 21 to 25 also declined significantly when states adopted the age 21 MLDA, from 70% in 1985 to 56% in 1991.7

Other outcomes – There is also evidence that the age 21 MLDA protects drinkers from alcohol and other drug dependence, adverse birth outcomes, and suicide and homicide.4

Drinking by those under the age 21 is a public health problem.

  • Excessive drinking contributes to more than 4,300 deaths among people below the age of 21 in the U.S. each year.10
  • Underage drinking cost the U.S. economy $24 billion in 2010.11
  • There were about 189,000 emergency department visits by people under age 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol in 2010.12
  • More than 90% of the alcohol consumed by those under age 21 is consumed by binge drinkers (defined as 5 or more drinks per occasion for boys; 4 or more drinks per occasion for girls).13

Drinking by those below the age of 21 is also strongly linked with9,14,15:

• Death from alcohol poisoning.
• Unintentional injuries, such as car crashes, falls, burns, and drowning.
• Suicide and violence, such as fighting and sexual assault.
• Changes in brain development.
• School performance problems, such as higher absenteeism and poor or failing grades.
• Alcohol dependence later in life.
• Other risk behaviors such as smoking, abuse of other drugs, and risky sexual behaviors.

Alcohol-impaired driving

Drinking by those below the age of 21 is strongly associated with alcohol-impaired driving.
The 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey16 found that among high school students, during the past 30 days

• 8% drove after drinking alcohol.
• 20% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.

Rates of drinking and binge drinking among those under 21

The 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System16 found that among high school students, 33% drank alcohol and 18% binge drank during the past 30 days.

In 2015, the Monitoring the Future Survey reported that 10% of 8th graders and 35% of 12th graders drank alcohol during the past 30 days, and 5% of 8th graders and 17% of 12th graders binge drank during the past 2 weeks.17

Enforcing the age 21 MLDA

Communities can enhance the effectiveness of age 21 MLDA laws by actively enforcing them.

• A Community Guide review found that enhanced enforcement of laws prohibiting alcohol sales to minors reduced the ability of youthful-looking decoys to purchase alcoholic beverages by a median of 42%.18

• Alcohol sales to minors are still a common problem in communities.

  • For example, in 2014, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the New York State Liquor Authority found that more than half (58%) of the licensed alcohol retailers in the City sold alcohol to underage decoys.19

DMU Timestamp: November 02, 2018 17:13

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