Tackling drinking problems

My Amelie vs. Garden State post has been exceptionally popular this past week. It garnered a month’s unique views in the past 7 days. Someone must be doing a project about it or something.

Not related, to my mind I can’t see how raising the drinking age to 19 will reduce alcohol-related violence. I’m not even pretending to be an expert in the field, but I imagine that doing this would only raise the amount of illegal drinking as 18 year olds become the new 17 year olds. You may reduce some cases of violence as 18 year olds stay at home (but I wonder how much, as a proportion, 18 year olds are involved in the reported violence compared to, say, 20 and over). But you will simply have 18 year olds getting drunk at home. And, without a barman or a RSA-trained person in their company they will likely drink to excess. And doesn’t drinking too much over a prolonged period of time cause as many problems to society as the violence we hear about?

May it not be a better idea to lower the drinking age to, say, 16 but the purchasing of alcohol itself stays at 18 or raise it to 19. That way, people aren’t drinking at home, in secret and causing all sorts of problems, and the person who is doing the purchasing is now responsible for the peoples drinking. And it would take away the whole ‘wonder’ of hitting 18 and going  out to get smashed. The person will have been drinking for some 2 years already – the fact that they can now buy it doesn’t actually change much.

I understand that lowering the drinking age doesn’t eliminate at-home drinking, but perhaps allowing 16 year olds to partake in drinking in public will increase the moderation of their intake. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are medical ramifications to drinking during a key development stage. And I’m happy to hear them and defer to experts. But I would also like to see studies that reflect what impact alcohol has on the brain and body at certain levels which could be the new ‘legal limit’.

Adjustments to the law are not going to stop binge drinking bar a limit on the amount of alcohol someone can buy per hour. People will do so long as they can get alcohol. It has to be a cultural change – the idea that being drunk is acceptable and encouraged needs to go. Maybe by introducing drinking at a somewhat lower age, exposing teenagers to alcohol and all the myths earlier might, in fact, dispel the myths and the attractive ideas of being a binge drinker or drinking to excess.

Other than something like this, it’s either status quo or a massive shake-up of Australian culture. Treating alcohol much like cigarettes and tobacco, and banning advertising, sponsorship, slapping on disgusting labels, etc. That’s the only real other option to changing things as I see it.

Thomas.

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