Underage Drinking: Is 21 the Right Age? Blog Article #6

INTRODUCTION

While doing research for this blog post, I came across a great video from the CBS news show 60 Minutes.This video is a debate on lowering the drinking age in the U.S. Both sides of the argument are presented well in the video. For example, if the drinking age were lowered, underage college students would probably be quicker to call for medical help when things get out of hand; however, it will likely do very little to make college students more knowledgeable and more responsible about alcohol abuse.

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U.S. DRINKING AGE

The U.S. drinking age was originally raised in 1984 after the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was signed by President Ronald Reagan. Only eleven other countries have a minimum drinking age as high as the U.S. More than 80% of the world’s countries have a drinking age lower than 21. After prohibition in the rolling twenties, alcohol was re-legalized in the U.S. Then, in the late ’60s and early ’70s, the legal drinking age was lowered to 18 in most states. This quickly resulted in an increase in drunk-driving and alcohol-related motor accidents. Reagan’s law resolved this problem to some extent as it decreased drunk driving accidents by about 50%. Countless debates, such as the one I linked to in the introduction, have persisted ever since. If you’re underage now, hopefully your luck won’t be as bad as Bad Luck Brian’s.

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OTHER COUNTRIES

In many European countries (source), where the minimum drinking age is 18, a greater percentage of young people drink more frequently; however, the number of dangerous intoxication incidences that occur is much lower. In these countries with lower drinking ages, only about 10% of drinking occasions result in the person getting drunk. Conversely, in the U.S, when young people drink, about half of drinking incidences end in intoxication. Why does this happen? In low drinking age countries, parents are responsible for regulating the amount of alcohol their children consume. This helps young people get an idea of what alcohol does to them and how much they can handle before they go out to drink on their own. Young Americans do not get this opportunity because it is considered unethical (it’s slightly illegal…) to get alcohol for underage people.

DISCUSSION

I am not necessarily advocating for the drinking age to be reduced in this country; however, there are a lot of good arguments fighting for the case. If 18-year-olds can be in the military, vote, serve on jury duty, get married, and buy guns, why, then, are they not fit to purchase, or at least consume, alcohol? It has been argued, as I discussed in my my second blog post, that before the age of 21, your brain is still developing and alcohol can adversely affect it more so than it would an adult. Additionally, just like what happened in the ’60s when the drinking age was lowered, drunk driving incidents could increase significantly if 18-year-olds were once again legally allowed to drink. The argument can easily go both ways. I will end with this though. According to the Diamondback, the student newspaper at UMD, the UMD police department, and other college officials, are more concerned about irresponsible drinking, such as binge-drinking, than underage drinking.

What do you guys think the drinking age should be in the U.S.? Should it be lowered or stay the same?

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Why Do You Drink? Blog Article #5

INTRODUCTION

Many students are fascinated and empowered by drinking. For some, it acts as a status symbol. Why is alcohol so appealing? And why is drinking the go-to activity for so many students? Based on my research for this blog post, I found out that there are four main reasons that college students drink.

SOCIAL

When first starting your college career, you are in a completely new environment and typically find yourself having to make all new friends. Between trying to fit in with your peers and meet high academic expectations, students are often overwhelmed with their new life. Introverted, shy students may especially have difficulty putting themselves out there. This is where alcohol comes in. According to a 2013 study, there is a positive relationship between social drinking motives and drinking behaviors. Though the study only showed a correlation between socialization and drinking, a lot of students do rely on parties to meet new people. You have probably experienced this yourself. Drinking can be difficult to avoid because alcohol is the centerpiece of most college parties.

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COST

Why, then, is alcohol the go-to activity at most college parties? The answer is simple. It’s cheap. The table on the right provides a good cost comparison between alcohol-related activities and non-drinking activities. Why would you go to an expensive concert when you could just go to a party with high-energy music at practically no cost? If house parties aren’t your thing, most bars surrounding college campuses offer ridiculously cheap deals on drinks, such as happy-hour specials, nearly every night of the week (source). This has done nothing but exacerbate the binge-drinking issue on college campuses, especially here at UMD.

COPING 

Some students drink to cope with emotional problems. Dependence on alcohol can quickly lead to alcohol abuse. If drinking is significantly altering your lifestyle, then it is a problem. Drinking due to emotional instability is one of the most influential factors of heavy episodic drinking. Temporarily enhancing your mood, students coping with severe emotional, physical, or mental stress are susceptible to drinking too much.

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PEER PRESSURE

Many students attend parties without the intention of getting wasted because they have other responsibilities or commitments the next day. As a student at a party, it can be difficult to refuse drinks from your peers. Drunk people sincerely want you to get in on what they have because they want you to have a good time too. That’s why you will frequently be offered so many drinks when you go to a party. The party hosts don’t have an agenda to get you wasted and hungover. An interview with several college students revealed that if you refuse a few times though, people will respect your decision and stop pressuring you.

CONCLUSION

There are several reasons, both good and bad, that you may choose to get involved with drinking in college. Socializing is beneficial for human development but using alcohol as a treatment for emotional problems can quickly lead to serious addiction issues. Don’t let drinking be your automatic “let’s have a good time” activity. In doing this, it can become a habit and lead to a lifestyle dependent on alcohol. What do you think? Why do you drink?

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Alcohol: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Blog Article #4

Alcohol does more than just get you drunk by messing with your brain. Drinking has many other effects, both good and bad, on your body. For this post, I’m going to share with you the good, the bad, and the ugly outcomes of drinking.

THE GOOD

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As many of you already know, and may use as an argument to your advantage every now and then, consuming moderate amounts of alcohol has health benefits. Moderate consumption of alcohol can actually help prevent both cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, over 100 studies have been done that show an inverse relationship between moderate drinking and heart-related diseases. Consuming some alcohol is good for your heart. Though there is no perfect, agreed upon standard definition, “moderate drinking” typically refers to less than one drink per day on average. Consuming more than three or four drinks is where alcohol begins to do more bad than good.

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THE BAD

Alcohol can and will make you fat if you drink too much. We’ve all heard the term “beer belly.This is often an accurate description of what can happen to your stomach if you drink excessively. The diagram on the right provides some insight into how many calories drinks contain. Essentially, many drinks have just as many calories as deserts. Assume the average drink contains about 150 calories. Now, if you average only one drink per day, the yearly caloric content in the alcohol you consume equates to about a 15-pound weight gain (55,000 calories). More than just your own personal weight can be affected though. A study done at the Washington University School of Medicine concluded that people who had a family history of alcoholism were at a greater risk of developing problems with obesity. Excessive drinking can impact both you and your potential offspring. Even if you aren’t concerned about your physical appearance, there are internal problems caused by drinking that are far worse.

THE UGLY

Excessive alcohol consumption can cause a lot of health problems; however, for this post, I want to focus how it impacts the liver. You probably already know that alcohol is bad for your liver. But what does your liver do and why does alcohol inhibit its functioning? The liver is a large, football-sized filter inside your body. It’s main purpose is to detoxify the blood that goes through it. It cleans your blood. Additionally, your liver stores vitamins and minerals while also transforming sugars and proteins into substances that your body can use. Referred to as cirrhosis in its most extreme state, excessive drinking causes the liver to become inflamed. While this doesn’t happen to all heavy drinkers, the side-effects are serious. Early on, individuals can experience fatigue and appetite loss. As the condition worsens, abdominal pain and vomiting will often occur. There is no way for someone to feel that there liver is suffering. Only the side effects can be felt by people. At its worse, cirrhosis can lead to liver failure which will most likely result in death.

More information on this is available here.

Feel free to provide feedback or post any questions you may have in the comments section.

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Alcohol and Academics. Blog Article #3

Alcohol alone won’t necessarily be a major detriment to your grades in college. Making it a part of your lifestyle will though. For this blog post, I chose to reference peer reviewed academic journals and reflect on the information they provide. Don’t be overwhelmed or scared off by this. I just wanted to make sure my data was accurate.

First Year College Students

A 2015 study by Gary Liguori and Barb Lonbaken provides an analysis of drinking behaviors, and their corresponding consequences, of first year college students. During the semester in which the study was conducted, 53% of the students, both male and female, reported at least one case of heavy episodic drinking (HED). Even though freshman reported the lowest mean HED cases and total number of drinks, the impact experienced by them is still clear. Compared to their non-drinking peers, first-year male college students were more than two times more likely to not be enrolled their second year. Drinking in college, and the activities associated with it, definitely have an impact on student’s grades.

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Drinking and Academic Performance

Another study, done in 2009, provides some insight into some academic problems associated with college drinking. The authors explain why their is such little scientific data on this subject though. The majority of undergraduate college students are under 21 and it is therefore both illegal and unethical to have them participate in studies. Research with adults has shown decreased memory retention, intellectual performance, and learning capabilities while under the influence. These affects do not last long after alcohol is flushed out of your body. Even though there are research barriers, useful data on college drinking has been obtained using surveys. An inverse relationship exists between excessive drinking and self-reported grade point average. The more you drink, the more your grades will plummet. Nonetheless, other studies mentioned in the article, such as one done at the University of California, Berkeley, concluded that drinking has little to no affect on college GPA. The picture above reflects this to some extent. You can still excel in college even if you drink occasionally. It is only when you exceed a certain threshold that your academic performance is at risk.

It Isn’t Just the Alcohol

From both of the academic papers I read for this post, I learned that the problem stems more from the environment most students are in when they get drunk rather than the alcohol itself. Late nights out partying coupled with early mornings for class leave students with no time to sleep. The combination of feeling sick from a hangover and just being groggy from lack of sleep is what often causes students to miss class and perform poorly on exams. As I pointed out in my first blog post, it all boils down to drinking responsibly. Whether or not underage students should have such easy, unrestricted access to alcohol is a whole other issue. If your grades are suffering, especially if you’re in your first year, you need to do more than just reevaluate the amount of alcohol you consume. You need to make a major change in your lifestyle. Yes, drinking is hurting your grades; however, this only rings true if the term “drinking” encompasses activities such as staying up late and losing sleep. The link between academic inadequacy and excessive drinking is dependent on more than just the alcohol itself.

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