Alcohol abuse is a significant problem among young people and a solution needs to be found. This page evaluates prevention programs and identifies effective and ineffective ways to reduce drinking problems among young people, especially high school, college, and university students. The best preventive measures are often the easiest and most economical and can be easily implemented by parents and educators. (Wechsler 57)
We've all seen the distressing headlines. Case in point --- newspapers across the country carried frightening statistics reported by Joe Califon and the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA). (Commission 199)
On national television programs, Califon reported horror stories of alcohol abuse among college students, associating it with assault, rape, and even murder. A CASA report asserted that:
* "60 percent of college women who have acquired sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS and genital herpes, were under the influence of alcohol at the time they had intercourse"
* "90 percent of all reported campus rapes occur when alcohol is being used by either the assailant or the victim"
* "The number of women who reported drinking to get drunk more than tripled between 1977 and 1993"
* "95 percent of violent crime on campus is alcohol-related"
Even the most improbable of statistics are often repeated by news media as fact and become part of public belief. It is now commonly believed that the average young person will have seen 100,000 beer commercials between the age of two and eighteen But just think --- sixteen years or about 5,844 days occur between a person's second and eighteenth birthday. To see 100,000 beer commercials in that period, a person would have to see an average of more than seventeen a day! Common sense alone should have been enough to dispel the myth. But this clearly absurd statistic has been gullibly repeated over and over:
* by the Center for Science in the Public Interest in the New York Times
* in Sports Illustrated
* in Congressional testimony by Senator Strom Thurmond, the National Council on Alcoholism, and The Center for Children
* by Remove Intoxicated Drivers (RID) on "Sonya Live"
* by former Surgeon General Everett Koop in the New York Times
* and in countless newspapers and magazines across the country 3
This blatantly erroneous statistic has even found its way into textbooks for students and in materials for teachers.
Distorted, biased, or incorrect statistics may attract media attention. They may even influence public policy. But they can't contribute to a reduction of alcohol abuse, which requires accurate information and unbiased interpretation. Therefore, we must be skeptical of surprising, sensationalized statistics. (Presley 1989)
Typically, inflated statistics are associated with talk of epidemics, threats to our youth, and similar alarmist language. Often they are promoted by groups with laudable sounding names such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest. But many such groups, which may have underlying social or political agendas, tend to exaggerate the extent and growth of problems in which they have a vested ...