Boozin College

The most dangerous aspect of college drinking should be the focus of prevention strategies.  I think the foremost goal should be not necessarily a reduction in college drinking but a reduction in the number of these drinkers who endanger themselves or others by drinking in an irresponsible manner.[1]  This is particularly important in the long run because binge drinking and other alcohol abuse makes it more likely to become an alcoholic or addict later in life. 

Trying to prevent alcohol from possession by underage students is in practice a waste of time.  Punishments or legal measures for such offenses are important because they show that the establishment stands behind the law, but do not prevent the flow of alcohol.  In this particular case it should be recognized that attacking the supply is useless because of the legality and general acceptance of underage drinking.  In most cases, a reasonable person does not object to people over the age of eighteen drinking responsibly.  The most compelling argument for me is the fact that when an American citizen turns eighteen, we can vote, go to war, be tried as an adult, but are not allowed to participate in one of the most popular adult activities.  We should also think about the situation in this country in relation to the situation in other first world countries.[2]  Considering that alcoholism rates in Europe are much lower and so is the drinking age, as well as the idea that alcohol is less likely to be abused when its consumption is not a novelty, we can conclude that focusing on responsible drinking is the best general strategy to reduce the overall harm, regardless of age. 

            Education is important but taking a hard line approach when presenting the facts can undermine the intended statement.  Since many college students think they should be allowed to drink, they may disregard a message that prescribes prohibition for people under twenty-one.  Providing a course to educate freshmen seems like an excellent idea as long as the emphasis is on responsible and safe drinking.  It should be a given that freshmen have the choice to drink alcohol.  These courses should also be mandatory instead of a form of punishment for violating the rules regarding alcohol.  Classes that are required as part of punishment are also less likely to be effective because they do not generally cover a large amount of material and students generally just have to attend to fulfill the requirement.  A mandatory class with grades and credit, not unlike this one, would be a way to make sure that everyone is aware of the dangers, even if they choose to ignore them.

            Proper education about the nature of alcohol should also be provided before college and most people do have some drug and alcohol programs in high school and middle school.  Experimentation should also be encouraged to a certain point.  This is not to say that parents should give their kids alcohol and tell them to have a good time but if a teenager is curious about alcohol, they should be allowed to try it.  I think that knowing the effects of alcohol before entering a college drinking situation would be very beneficial.  Quite often alcohol poisoning is a result of someone who didn’t know what effect a certain amount of alcohol would have on them.  A very important aspect of any education program should include the warning signs of alcohol poisoning.[3]  Sanctioned, supervised alcohol consumption during high school and college would also normalize the drinking situation to a great extent.  For many people, drinking would become less of a thrilling pastime and more of a normal event.  For example, I have spent a good amount of time at Mcgill and at the parties there everyone is drinking but generally not overboard and is certainly nothing compared to American schools.  One possible reason for this is a tradition that professors have a dinner with groups of new students, wine is served and the students can have an example early on in their college career of how to drink in a responsible manner.

            Beyond education, there are several things that could be done with regards to student living arrangements and sanctions associated with underage and/or irresponsible drinking.  The first and most important thing is to make sure that if someone gets in trouble, they can be helped as quickly as possible.  In order for this to happen, people can not be afraid to ask for help.[4]  The possible sanctions one might face when calling the police or ambulance for a sick friend should not be such that someone might hesitate to react the way they should.  BC has done a good job concerning this risk because generally when an underage person is caught drunk, they are given the choice of a jail cell or the infirmary.   Another thing the school could do would be to encourage RAs to be more aware, if not involved, with the activities of the students.  Students shouldn’t be worried about being “busted” by the RA because then we have an US vs. THEM mentality which may stop some of the alcohol coming in but does not make for an effective prevention technique.  An RA should overlook moderate drinking in order to create an atmosphere of trust and so if a serious problem arises, it can be dealt with more effectively.  Sanctions should be given mainly as a way to recognize warning signs for an individual.  The college is certainly concerned with the health of their students and so with a certain number of alcohol related sanctions, someone should tell the student they may have a drinking problem and have recovery options should they need it.

            I think we should lower the drinking age despite the fact that the earlier a person starts drinking, the more likely they are to become alcoholics.  The benefits of a more responsible drinking population would outweigh the potential downsides.  Destroying the novelty of alcohol consumption would greatly reduce the amount of abusive drinking.  With the drinking age at twenty-one, it is important to focus to moderation and treatment rather than prohibition and punishment

 


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