Choose Responsibility Says New Study on Rising Alcohol Use Among Students Illustrates Need for Fresh Solutions

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A recent study by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America indicated that rates of past-month alcohol use among high school students rose 11% between 2008 and 2009. These new numbers show that underage drinking is an entrenched and widespread problem despite the 21 year-old drinking age. Choose Responsibility urges lawmakers nationwide to consider fresh solutions, such as alcohol education and licensing programs for young adults, which will have a positive impact on the culture of toxic alcohol consumption among young people.

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It is often said that keeping the drinking age at 21 has kept alcohol out of the hands of high school students. These new data undermine that assertion.

Past-month rates of alcohol use among high school students rose 11% between 2008 and 2009, according to a new study published by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. These new numbers constitute evidence that underage drinking is a widespread and growing problem, despite the one-size-fits-all mandate of the 21 year-old drinking age. Choose Responsibility urges lawmakers to consider fresh solutions, such as alcohol education and licensing programs, which will have a positive impact on the culture of toxic alcohol consumption among young people.

Since 1984, the federal highway funding restrictions attached to the 21 year-old drinking age have stifled debate about solutions to a public health crisis that is putting thousands of lives at risk every year. This new study shows that young people continue to drink despite the dictates of the law, and they do so in the riskiest and least manageable of settings. The states must be allowed to debate the consequences of Legal Age 21 without fear of heavy-handed federal mandates so that parents can obtain the tools they need to educate young people about responsible alcohol consumption.

"It is often said that keeping the drinking age at 21 has kept alcohol out of the hands of high school students. These new data undermine that assertion," said Choose Responsibility President John McCardell. "We now know that Legal Age 21 is not only doing little to prevent young adults age 18-20 from drinking, but it also does not seem to be preventing those under 18 from consuming. This attitude of clandestine, reckless consumption must at least to some degree be attributed to a law that has sought, without much success, to impose Prohibition on young adults.”

More effective solutions might include state-based programs which create an incentive for young people to abstain from alcohol until they turn 18, when they could take an education course and receive a provisional permit to consume alcohol. “Just saying no does not work,” McCardell added. “If we were to let states experiment with alternative approaches, which might include mandatory alcohol education and licensing for those who complete high school and have observed the law up to that point, we might reverse these increasingly disturbing trends. No one should be satisfied that the status quo is the best we can do."

Choose Responsibility is a nonprofit organization founded to stimulate informed and dispassionate public discussion about the presence of alcohol in American culture and to consider policies that will effectively empower young adults age 18 to 20 to make mature decisions about the place of alcohol in their own lives. To learn more, visit http://www.chooseresponsibility.org.

Contact: Nick DeSantis

Phone: (202) 543-8760

E-Mail: ndesantis(at)chooseresponsibility(dot)org

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