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The Sound of Ideas

A Lower Drinking Age?

Posted Friday, August 22, 2008

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A Lower Drinking Age? The U.S. Surgeon General estimates that 5,000 people under age 21 die from alcohol-related injuries involving underage drinking each year. But more than 100 college presidents signed a petition called the Amethyst Initiative, which says it's time to think about lowering the drinking age. Critics, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, say lowering the age will only make the problem worse.

Tags

Education, Government/Politics

Guests

Jim Joyner, Manager of public information and training at the Alcohol & Drug Addiction Services Board of Cuyahoga County

John McCardell, President Emeritus of Middlebury College and Founder of Choose Responsibility and Amethyst Initiative


Additional Information

Amethyst Initiative, a petition signed by more than 100 college presidents calling for debate about the legal drinking age.
Choose Responsibility, a nonprofit organization founded by former president of Middlebury College, John McCardell
Mothers Against Drunk Driving
College Presidents Seek to Re-Examine Drinking Age, article from the Plain Dealer

Listeners weigh in via email:

I'm glad that you're talking about this today. I work at a college outside of Ohio, and based on a recent survey of our student body, our students on average have 15.5 drinks a week, and our drug use is pretty high-20% of our students used cocaine in the last year alone. That's downright scary to me, and it's difficult to educate students about this topic effectively. I don't work directly with educating students on this, but from my own observations it's difficult to push towards abstinence because so many students have already been drinking by the time they get to college.
Laura in Virginia

I tuned in 5 minutes into the broadcast and found it difficult to pinpoint real message behind the Middlebury president's discussion. I did not get a clear understanding of what he and his colleagues thought would be gained from lowering the drinking age.

I am the father of three adult children -- the youngest being 18.5 yrs old and just heading to an Ohio college. I am very worried about the over-riding desire for many of these students to drink. This behavior has become their main goal and desire. Some of them are well on their way to an alcoholic lifestyle. One of the speakers today used the terms "drug" and "drug overdose" which in my experience with these students is EXACTLY the case. They crave the buzz and the swimming head feeling that alcohol gives. With the particular crowd of students I'm thinking of, they don't know about responsible drinking and whatever their reason to drink, I am worried about their safety while under the influence of alcohol.

This college is in a rural area of the state and there are country roads with only two stop signs and lots of curving back roads. All it takes is a little alcohol and an exhausted driver to snuff out a very young life. I am scared to death.

However, emotions aside, I thought John's arguments about Puerto Rico and the declining accident rates, specious. The issue is NOT lowering the drinking age. The issue is about why so many young adults feel the need to get "plastered" every day starting at 3-4 pm, then sleep until noon, then pal around a bit before starting over. There is only whatever demands are placed upon them and partying, which requires drinking. I am sure there are other cultural causes -- broken families/divorce/consumer culture/ADD which make drinking "make sense."

The one caller raised a good point about not being solely about driving. Drinking at this young age and this heavily will lead to serious adult issues involving relationships, mental alertness and sustained concentration, and a panoply of physiological complications.

Thanks for the topic today. I'm continuing to pursue this by any means possible. There are too many lives at stake.
Bob in Cleveland Heights


I am an 18 year old high school senior. I have noticed that the students who are not drinking are those who would do so responsibly.
I believe that underage drinking stems from a lack of understanding and teaching. I have found that people who have been taught how to drink responsibly do not consume large amounts of alcohol. I have been allowed a small amount of wine with Christmas dinner for a long time. Talking with people who have been taught about alcohol this way, I have noticed that they are very unlikely to be binge drinking or drinking more then a glass of wine with their parents. The problem is not the drinking age but instead how American culture approaches drinking.
K.

Back in the day, before we lost it to highway funds, Ohio had 3.2 beer for 18 yr olds. Has anyone ever looked into how effective that was?
I was fortunate to have grown up in a family that offered watered wine to the kids at the holiday tables. I did the same with my children. It seems to me, that reduces the mystique of drinking. What effect does the current culture of glorifying all things celebrity, including drugs, drink and no-panties have on the binge drinking problem?
Jackie in Lakewood

The problem starts WAY before college. My question, as the mother of two high school age girls, is what in the world drives these kids to choose drinking as their social bonding ritual above all the other options available to them? In our small, close, parentally-aware community, three kids have died this year in alcohol/drug-related incidents. I know at least two kids who are well on their way to full-blown alcoholism, and know several who are in and out of rehab. What is going on? There seems to be a dangerous streak of nihilism here.
Martha

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