New Year’s Eve has always been known to be drinking occasion that cost lots of lives and health care expenditures due to traffic accidents. What is less known is that many of these cases involve underage drinking. According to recent statistics, ER visits due to drunken driving by the underaged is 263% higher at New Year than on an average day – the worst day of the year, in fact. But isn’t this a sad way of starting the New Year?
Dr. Pete Delany of the US department of Health and Human Services is urging parents to carefully watch their teens during the holidays as well set a good example.
“They need to be paying attention to what’s going on. They need to know where their kids are going, if there’s going to be alcohol served, and give good role models for making sure that the kids see what it’s like to be safe on the holiday.’’
Binge drinking is a serious public health problem; 42 % of adolescents engage in binge drinking. Its disadvantages for the drinkers are immense which may include poor performance in college or school or other acute and chronic diseases later in life. In the worst case, binge drinking may lead to alcohol poisoning and even death. Non-drinkers are also disadvantaged when caught in resulting accidents, crime and violence.
Binge drinking takes place in college campuses especially in parties. In fact even adolescents at 18 already engage in binge drinking. This led people like the Amethyst Initiative to toy with the idea of lowering the legal age of drinking, currently 21, to perhaps lower underage college binge drinking. This is on the assumption that if it’s legal to drink at 18, people will start drinking moderately like social drinkers do. (Like you won’t do what isn’t forbidden). A new study that will be published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, however, says otherwise.
The study did a survey and through a mathematical model evaluated the role of the „misperception“ effect. ‘„Misperception“ is the idea that underage students widely perceive “normal” drinking levels to be higher than they actually are and that students would adjust their own habits if they were surrounded by social drinkers rather than binge-drinking party-goers’. This „misperception“, according to the study, seems to be very important. Researchers found out firstly, that lowering legal drinking may lower underage drinking in campuses surrounded by bars and where identifications are not strictly checked (and therefore heavy binge drinking takes place) if „misperception“ among adolescents is present. Otherwise, binge drinking may increase in such campuses. Secondly, in so-called “dry“campuses, that is, where there is stricter underage drinking law enforcement, „misperception“ has to be even stronger among adolescents. In fact for the newly concepted law to be effective, misperception level has to be extremely large in the presence of higher levels of underage drinking law enforcement, according to the head researcher.
It looks like lowering drinking legal age won’t really solve the problem of underage binge drinking. Data supporting misperception levels on adolescents are also necessary to have any basis for such a law.
In the meantime, parents should be vigilant about their children, now only those which are in college. Because alcohol use and binge drinking can start as early as middle school!