Underage Drinking

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Underage Drinking

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.

Additional Information

•Young Drivers & Alcohol

•Legal Drinking Age

•Binge Drinking

•Underage Alcohol Abuse Prevention Facts & Information

•Underage Drinking Rates

The Issue

We've all seen the distressing headlines. Case in point --- newspapers across the country carried frightening statistics reported by Joe Califano and the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA).

On national television programs, Califano 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"

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.

This blatantly erroneous statistic has even found its way into textbooks for students and in materials for teachers.

A Solution

In spite of all the hype and exaggeration, the fact remains that alcohol abuse is still a significant problem among youth that requires our attention. Thus, the question remains: what can we do to reduce alcohol abuse?

Significantly, hype and exaggeration are actually an important part of the problem. A negative spin on drinking statistics has a negative impact on drinking behaviors by contributing to a "reign of error. 17 When people believe that "everyone is doing it," abusive drinking increases as they try to conform to the imagined behaviors of others. 18 This is especially true among young people. Perceptions of the drinking behaviors of others strongly influences the actual drinking behavior of students.

The exaggeration of alcohol abuse tends to create a self-fulfilling prophesy. The more young people believe heavy drinking occurs, the more heavily they tend to drink in order to conform. Research has demonstrated that reducing misperceptions of alcohol abuse is an effective way to reduce actual abuse among adolescents.

Individual students almost always believe that most others on campus drink more heavily than they do and the disparity between the perceived and the actual behaviors tend to be quite large. By conducting surveys of actual behavior and publicizing the results, the extent of heavy drinking can be quickly and significantly reduced. The most ...
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