My Shady Life as an Underage Drinker
Nick Tucker
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There is obviously a huge generation and lifestyle gap in the comments below. The holier-than-thou people who say just don’t drink and condemn you for doing so are within their right, but they are not representative of most of the rest of the developed world. America is a huge outlier in the way it treats alcohol. We have pitiful regulation of marketing and advertising alcohol in commercials, magazines, movies, etc. so it is saturated in much of our entertainment. Where was the indignation when Katy Perry invited 14-year-old Rebecca Black to join her video “Last Friday Night” about binge drinking? And yet underage drinking in practice is criminalized with serious consequences (in college the cops would hand out Minor in Possession or Drunk in Public tickets like candy, because like you said, these 18–20-year-olds were drinking at home instead of bars).

If young adults don’t have a model of what drinking should look like, and their parents don’t talk to them about responsible drinking, they’re going to rely on peers and pop culture. It’s exactly what you said — young people who were gradually TAUGHT about drinking vs. those who were brought up pretending it didn’t exist, respond very differently when first exposed to alcohol. The commenters below suffer from the same problem as people defending abstinence- it may have worked for them, but they’re ignoring the fact that it’s statistically broken and backward. I appreciate you including the bit about your own experience with binge drinking, because trust me, most Americans can relate with you. I respect the choice of the 30% of Americans that abstain from drinking altogether, but those seem to be the people lecturing you about your drinking habits, so obviously they aren’t going to understand how inexperienced drinkers or drinkers in difficult social situations handle themselves. And for a lot of us it takes the hard lesson to learn how to drink responsibly, because it was never taught in the first place.

I’m hopeful that there are more discussions about repsonsible drinking and what it should look like. You should also check out this article http://www.psmag.com/health-and-behavior/truth-wont-admit-drinking-healthy-87891

Here’s a little excerpt:

  • Well-informed Americans are often remarkably ignorant about the benefits of moderate drinking and think that abstinence is better for them.
  • The U.S. is not a heavy-drinking nation, yet its health outcomes are poor compared with other economically-advanced nations.
  • The worst drinking pattern is frequent binge-drinking, yet many Americans engage in such drinking (certainly young Americans), while thinking daily-but-moderate drinking is a sign of addiction.
  • In treatment and prevention, the American abstinence/just-say-no fixation can lead to tenuous, unrealistic efforts to abstain, efforts at which people frequently fail, only to engage in the highest-risk forms of binge consumption.
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