The Alcohol Abuse Crisis Revisited. (Controversy)

By McNiece, Hugh | University Business, October 2002 | Go to article overview

The Alcohol Abuse Crisis Revisited. (Controversy)


McNiece, Hugh, University Business


IN HER EDITORIAL, "ON THE ALCOHOL ABUSE CRISIS" [Editors Note, July/August 2002], Katherine Grayson passionately called our attention to the issue of "saving the lives and futures of a generation of young people" by citing some truly astounding statistics: 1,400 deaths, 70,000 cases of sexual assault or rape, and 500,000 injuries annually as a result of alcohol abuse on campus. I want to join Ms. Grayson in urging you to visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's (NIAAA) "Call to Action" Web site (www. collegedrinkingprevention.gov) for recommendations on how colleges and universities can help their students avoid destroying their own and each other's lives through alcohol abuse. Ms. Grayson accurately placed the ultimate responsibility for educating young people regarding the dangers of alcohol abuse squarely on the shoulders of parents. And she was clearly on target when she pointed out that as a society, we perpetuate "the notion of alcohol as anesthesia, recreation, and aphrodisiac," and in doing so, we bring upon ourselves the destruction of young lives.

Where Ms. Grayson and I part company is in her call to return the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) to 18. She views the MLDA of 21 as unrealistic and as a barrier to parents assuming responsibility to teach their children about appropriate alcohol use while their children are still living at home, with an opportunity to monitor and coach their children through their early experiences with alcohol. I believe the MLDA of 21 has been a significant factor in curbing alcohol abuse among young people, and view it as supporting and reinforcing the messages about alcohol abuse, which I am attempting to inculcate in my children.

But I have not carefully researched this issue. There may be other legitimate perspectives beyond those I am about to quote. I am eager to hear from you who know more about the subject than I do. The topic is certainly worthy of whatever attention it takes to investigate and explore together to reach common understandings that will enable us to fight together effectively against the destruction of young lives.

"The minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) law is the most well-studied alcohol control policy. Compared to other programs aimed at youth in general, increasing the legal age for purchase and consumption of alcohol has been the most successful effort to date in reducing underage drinking and alcohol-related problems. Most studies suggest that higher legal drinking ages reduce alcohol consumption, and over half found that a higher legal drinking age is associated with decreased rates of traffic crashes. …

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