Intoxication’s “Fake Feeling of Happiness”
Drugs are merely the most obvious form of addiction in our society.
Intoxication is an important part of emerging adult culture and of the lives of many individual emerging adults. Why? Exactly why is intoxication so prevalent and important among 18- to 23-year-olds? Why do so many American emerging adults feel the need to become high, stoned, buzzed, and drunk? What is wrong with simply living life not recurrently intoxicated? And what might the answers to these questions tell us about our larger American society and culture?
Fears and complaints about adolescents and young adults doing drugs, drinking alcohol, and smoking cigarettes are nothing new. Dismay and alarm about these issues have been around for a long time. In fact, the issue of booze and drugs among youth has become perhaps an almost endemic ritual in our culture. Every day, month, and year, many young people feel compelled to get high, stoned, buzzed, and drunk. And every day, month, and year, some old people feel compelled to worry, raise concern, and develop new programs designed to reduce substance abuse. In a few cases, certain aspects of these problems have improved.1 But in general the underlying situation remains much the same, year after year. Intoxication remains a big part of American emerging adult life and culture, despite many educational and governmental programs trying to change that. So what besides the obvious is going on here?
First, let us consider the actual extent of the substance-use issues in question. According to our NSYR survey data, nearly one in five (19 percent) of our surveyed 18- to 23-year-olds report drinking alcohol either a few times a week, once a day, or more often.2 But drinking alcohol per se is not necessarily a problem. What is a problem is heavy drinking. Of the 78 percent of all emerging adults