Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lower Drinking Age?

I don't know that I even want to get into this one too deep. 100 university presidents recently came out in favor of lowering the legal drinking age from 21 to 18. Their argument in support of a lower drinking age is the abundance of binge drinking on college campuses. By lowering the drinking age, students won't "binge" because, well, they'll have easier access to alcohol. If you have access, you won't feel like you need to drink excessively when alcohol is available. Opponents say that lowering the drinking age won't end binge drinking, will make alcohol more accessible to younger people and will increase drunk driving.

Honestly, I don't have much of an opinion either way. The fact is that the legal drinking age isn't enforced rigorously at this point so changing the age doesn't matter. Even with all the regulations in place, people under 21 can still walk into a liquor store and buy whatever they want without hassle. Police could easily track underage parties and bust them up but they choose to look the other way. If no one enforces the laws that are currently on the books, then what makes the difference on whether the age is 21, 29 or 12. Lowering the age is not going to prevent binge drinking. Only education of the dangers will make any difference. But, as Obama said, these decisions are "above my pay grade."

More disconcerting to me, and receiving less attention, is the recent report from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. The report states that nineteen percent of teenagers found it easier to purchase prescription drugs than cigarettes, beer or marijuana, compared with 13 percent a year ago. A quarter of the teens said it is easiest to buy marijuana, with 43 percent of 17-year-olds saying they could buy the drug in less than an hour.

Why is this not receiving the attention it deserves? There is a serious drug problem in this country and the accessibility for high school students (and younger) has never been higher. Lowering the drinking age is a distraction from the real problems facing our culture. The abuse of prescription pills and other drugs is real and it's happening everywhere and no one will recognize the problem. Some counties in West Virginia have stated planned initiatives for addressing the issue but it's too little. Some people act as though it's not a real issue because, hey, doctors prescribe these drugs so how bad can it be?

School officials need to work with police to begin addresses these problems now. They're already out of control...allowing them to build will make it impossible to ever change. Students are not afraid of getting caught because no one is attempting to catch them. Without even the fear of punishment, why would anyone ever change their ways? Do students have to die before people local officials will admit there is an issue? Give it time and it will happen. It's a shame we have to wait that long.

Anyway, got off on a tangent there a bit...but, really, it's all related in some way. Hopefully someone will address these issues sooner than later.

No comments: