Friday, October 05, 2007
Kids and Drinking Revisited
I am a child of the "Just Say No" generation. My junior high school had a "No Team," and I was an officer. We took a pledge to not drink alcohol, use drugs or have sex. At the first "No Team" meeting, a heated debate ensued as we discussed whom to select as our honorary chairman. The two top contenders were Mr. T and Nancy Reagan. I rallied for Mrs. Reagan. In my junior-high earnestness, I tried to convince my fellow "No Teamers" that Mrs. Reagan would give our group integrity and a dash of panache. After much debate, Mr. T was selected. Over 20 years later, I still think Mrs. Reagan should have won.

I thought about the "No Team" when I sat down to talk with Stanton Peele. He is the author of "Addiction-Proof Your Child." A psychologist, Peele argues that the American "Just Say No" culture surrounding teen drinking actually encourages kids to binge drink. He says parents should let their kids drink at home, but in moderation. When Peele’s children were in their early teens, he allowed them to have a sip of wine or beer. By the time his children were in high school, they were allowed to have a glass of wine or beer with dinner.

Critics say that Peele is flat wrong and that teens are not psychologically or physically mature enough to drink, period. The response to Peele's story (Full Story) has been passionate and provocative. Many readers have weighed in. Says Don, "This is as stupid as 'safe' sex. The smart answer is abstinence." Another reader, Andrew, says, "One simply needs to look at the numbers between Canada and the U.S. ... It's "madd" (pun intended) to have a forbidden fruit attitude. If the U.S. finally got out of the dark ages on the issue, we wouldn't have nearly the problem."

We want to know what you think. Should the U.S. lower the drinking age? Do you think kids drink more now than they did in previous generations? Also, what about "social hosting"? Do you think it is safer to have kids drink at home? If you are a parent, would you ever allow your child to have a party in your home that involves alcohol? You can hear more from Peele and his critics tonight on "Out in the Open" tonight at 8 ET.
Hi Jen:

I am really passionate about the drinking and driving issue. I never drink and drive and I am 40. It makes no sense to me! There are so many seniors here that are on so many meds half of them are drunks driving in their own right so I have to protect myself and my family by driving when I have not had a drink.

Now, I drink at home and have wine with dinner. My parents always had wine in the house as did my grandparents. My children both have tried wine at home. They don't like it. Wine and alcohol and sex are not taboo in the home. Wine is to be enjoyed with family, friends and great food. My children know wine. They know a merlot from a sake or a white zin from a chardonnay. My children ask questions about their bodies, sex, drugs and growing up. They ask us all kinds of questions.

I do not believe "social hosting" of teens and alcohol is correct and belief if parents are dumb enough to do this, then they should be held accountable legally!

A great Friday question as we go into the weekend! Have a great one!
I believe that people who want to drink will drink regardless on laws... drinking is usually connected to the way person was raised and perhaps social status in certain area. Since I'm international student maybe my view on this issue is not marked as high priority issue in this country. Underage drinking rates are high and there is no denial for that, but... I can obtain drivers license when I'm 16, serve in army at the same age. But to drink alcohol you have to be 21. It doesn't make sense. Laws are saying that you are responsible enough to carry a gun around, but yet even if you are 21 you have to put a beer bottle in paper bag. Age limit of 21 yrs and older is just increasing odds that young person is going to drink. Why? Because it's so cool to get drunk illegally. Teenager sees a person drinking alcohol that is a role model or celebrity figure, then they are definitely going to gain a more positive outlook on drinking. For "Just Say No" generation I have no comment. If I did.. it would be like atheists going to the church every Sunday to confess.. lol
I am a fan of being taught how to drink responsibly with your family. I was brought up to believe that alcohol was not a big deal and never had a desire to sneak drinks from the cabinet or a beer from the fridge. I was given sips of whatever my parents were drinking as long as I can remember. For the most part it was “yucky” and not something I desired to do again. As I grew up, my taste buds changed and I grew to have an appreciation of what types of wine and beer I liked. At 13 I was allowed a half glass of wine with my family on special occasions, on my birthday, I got to pick it out (usually a sweet white or a white zinfandel). At 16 it became a full glass.

When I got to college I went to parties with everyone else, but they uniformly drank cheep, flavorless beer and bottom shelf rail drinks. I chose not to drink heavily because 1) It tasted bad, 2) the effects of alcohol had been explained to me (and I was allowed to drink enough on one occasion to know what “drunk” felt like in the safety of my home and know that I didn’t enjoy it) as well as observing the effects on others and 3) I knew there were better things to do with my time.

A lot of my friends went through the drink themselves silly phase and did the power hour because they could. I more or less had to sit back and watch, and make sure they had a safe way home. I think if more parents took the time to educate kids on what it was like to drink, and how to drink responsibly there would be a lot fewer issues with the subject. But that’s a flaw in general with many parents these days, that there are a lot of them that do not have the time or interest to make sure they are street smart and book smart. Too many kids are one or the other. But that’s another subject.

My advice to anyone on alcohol - Know your limits. Don’t drink and drive. Drink because you enjoy what you are drinking, not simply because it is there.
Having grown up in Montreal, where the drinking age is 18, I feel very fortunate.

In the US, it seems as though most of the heavy drinking is done in college, right when teens have moved out and when parental involvement is at an all-time low.

In Canada, it seems like kids start drinking earlier, but at a time when they're still living in their parent's homes so the drinking is done in moderation. When they do finally move out of the home, drinking isn't such a novelty and less binging occurs.

Drinking and driving is not right at any age, and I'm not clear on what role an age limit of 21 has in curbing the practice.

And yes, there is a corrolary between safe drinking and safe sex... teens and young people are going to drink and are going to have sex; the abstinence movement is a failure as is the age limit of 21... we need to move away from "right" and "wrong" (or "left") when dealing with these issues and realize our kids are getting STDs and binging on booze because we aren't able to educate them correctly on a life of moderation.
My husband and I were both born in 1959, were part of the chosen few who were allowed to drink at age 18 and then they changed the drinking age to 21. I could very well understand the reasoning because you could always find an 18 yr old to buy for you back in the day. Not too many highschool kids hang out with 21yr olds, but more often than not they have older siblings. Therefore, it is difficult to say what is a good legal age to drink. The danger here is for parents to be ignorant of the fact that their children might drink and or will be tempted to do so. Our rule as parents was to recognize the real possiblility when our kids were younger and the golden rule was that if they found themselves in that situation they could always call us and we would be there for them no questions asked. I would much rather be woken up by my child needing a ride home for what ever reason, rather than getting the dreaded phone call or visit from the police.
As I commented on the news article, I do believe in letting a child taste (sip) alcohol if they ask. I also do not oppose the parents providing a teenage youth with an occasional drink at home with a meal. Not every day, but on special occasions, and provided they will not be driving anywhere the rest of the day.

I plan to do this with my son. I plan to let him know if there is any alcohol he wants to try, I would be willing to buy it and let him try it at home (in a quantity appropriate to his age -- which would be maybe one drink).

We would also talk regularly about alcohol and drinking. My spouse comes from an alcoholic family and therefore refuses to touch alcohol. I only drink socially, less than once a month, and don't keep alcohol around.

I will not provide alcohol to unrelated youth. That, I believe, crosses the line into inappropriate behavior. Nor will I knowingly allow my child(ren) to host a party involving alcohol for the underage.
I am also a child of the "Just say No" era and I can tell you it did NOT work. Kids will do it anyway, especially if it is exciting and hidden. Thus, you might as well tell them how to do it safely (and the same with sex!)

My parents taught me to drink responsibly and when I went to college I'm not going to say that I never had a crazy night, but I can say that I never had a problem being the sober one. I also never had a crazy night unless I knew who I was with and where I was... safety in numbers. Even in high school when my friends drank, if I knew I was in a safe place I would, but if we had to drive, they could always count on me to be the designated driver, why? because drinking wasn't a big deal to me.

Stop making taboos, they are too fun to break. Be open about drking and sex and you will have a lot more kids with the best information who can make smart choices (and I bet you'd be surprised how many people who are educated on the issues end up making good choices the majority of the time.)
Teenagers who drink alcohol with their parents are less likely to have either consumed alcohol or abused it according to a nation-wide study funded by the federal government.

Similarly, teenagers who drink alcohol with their parents are less likely to drink heavily, according to a large nation-wide study in England.

Young people will learn to drink somewhere and somehow. Will we let them learn to drink in the safe environment of the parents’ house or in the riotous conditions of the fraternity house. The choice is ours.

Choose Responsibility is a group that believes we should follow the successful model of driver education and licensing. It proposes drinking learner permits for adults age 18, 19 and 20, that are analogous to driving learner permits as a way to reduce abusive drinking by young persons. The non-profit group was founded by Dr. John McCardell, President Emeritus of Middlebury College
I think we are overlooking one thing regarding kids drinking underage, with family. In countries like Italy and France, this is the norm. They have wine with most meals, and it's just part of the meal -- not something to be excited about (unless it's really good like the food). Those countries do not have the binge drinking problems that we have in this country.

It's the same concept with sex.. in countries that don't make it such a secretive or taboo subject, it's not such a big deal. Kids choose whether or not to have sex based on their readiness, their values, their feelings, and not on curiosity or teenage rebellion. I remember doing a paper on this in college and I believe it was Sweden, they have only a 1% teenage unwanted pregnancy rate there. That's because teens just didn't rebel by having sex, when they did they were responsible.

I have a 14-year old and we talk about everything. I find that if it's not going to shock me or cause waves, it's not much fun to rebel to. I allow him his healthy rebellion because kids do need to push the envelope, discover themselves, but when there is open discussion and less taboo around these subjects their rebellion focuses on other normal -- and safer -- things.

We already have a MADD contract though, so I know he's safe. I think there is one caveat here, families with a serious history of addiction. Drinking young may just create the desire to feel more of that feeling, and I have seen that in my own family. It's got to be a judgment call, but discussion and moderation are always key.

Great topic!
I was allowed sips of beer, wine and daquiries (sp?) from a very young age (4). My family never drank to excess of any kind. Perhaps one beer in an evening and normally only at a celebratory event - wine occassionally with a nice dinner.

Personally, I think this type of example teaches responsible, social drinking. It did me. MOST things we put in our bodies should never imbibed to excess - even water. People place the word "drug" on alcohol like it's a dirty word. Red wine is actually healthful when taken in moderation.

My children don't like the smell or taste of any alcohol at 12 and 13 years old. But I still offer a sip. I will teach them responsible use of alcohol as I was taught.

Caveat - I do not at ANY time condone drinking and driving.
Hello Dr. Gupta
I understand the theory behind what the parents are saying here. I would agree though I do not believe we are able to lock every child into that theory. We still have to deal with addictions and how they can be past down just as heart disease. Our son is adopted and he came from drug and alcohol related issues and we were told that he would have a greater chance of becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs if he just tried a drink, where another person that was not born into such a birth history would not be a prime candidate for addictions. I find it very dangerous to put that teaching out across the board as one way is exactly right without considering the whole addiction syndrome that is out there. I do appreciate your show and how you are out there making people more aware of choices they have.
Thank you for everything.
I have heard many people in my 12 step group say that they started using drugs or alcohol at home at a young age. Whenever, the subject of to-drink/use or not-to-drink/use is an issue in a home that home already tends toward addiction.
Our society knows more about cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and HIV-AIDS that is known about the disease of addiction.
It is all very nice to see a young lady having a nice glass of wine with her dad over a lovely meal. Fast forward a few years after she is dealing with financial problems, sick children, a spouse who drinks too much, the inevitable grief and pain, and she will then feel justified to numb herself with alcohol or pills. She may inadvertantly cross the indefineable line to addiction. The attraction of this relief will be the major incentive and addiction will have come the full circle.
As has been said, the only problem with the comment that Europeans foster responsible drinking is that it isn't true. Two items below will give readers all the information they need on this. The European picture of substance use is not pretty. See stories below.
(The second article from Time magazine has just a title and link to economize on space here.)


WASHINGTON, D.C., July 19, 2001 - Young people from Europe do not drink more
responsibly than young people from the United States, according to comparison
data released today by the Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and
Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).

In comparison with young people in the United States:

-A greater percentage of young people from nearly all European countries report
drinking in the past 30 days.

-A greater percentage of young people report having five or more drinks in a

-About half of the European countries have intoxication rates among young people
that are higher than the intoxication rates in the United States.

Commonly, Europe is held up as an example where there are more liberal drinking
age laws and attitudes that, in turn, foster more responsible styles of drinking
by young people. It is often asserted that young Europeans learn to drink more
responsibly than young people from the United States.

In 1995, the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs was
conducted with 15- to 16-year-old students in 26 European countries. The
questionnaire was modeled closely after the U.S. Monitoring the Future Survey,
conducted for the National Institute on Drug Abuse since 1975.

According to the research, there is no evidence that the stricter laws and
policies regarding drinking by young people in the United States are associated
with higher rates of intoxication. Equally, there is no evidence that the more
liberal policies and drinking socialization practices in Europe are associated
with lower levels of intoxication.

The analysis of the European and United States data was prepared by the Pacific
Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE), as part of PIRE's ongoing support
of OJJDP's Enforcing the Underage Drinking Laws Program (EUDL). Under the EUDL
program, OJJDP provides funds to each state and the District of Columbia to
implement programs to enforce laws relating to selling alcohol to underage

A bulletin highlighting the comparison data is available on-line through OJJDP's
Web site at Click on the EUDL Compendium scrolling message
featured under "The Latest from OJJDP," and the document can be found under
"Publications of the Enforcing the Underage Drinking Laws Program."

For more information about the data analysis or to obtain hard copies of the
bulletin, contact the EUDL Center for Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws at

For more information concerning OJJDP and the EUDL program, contact the Office
of Justice Programs' Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at 202/307-0703.
Time magazine
The British Disease

Binge drinking used to be a mostly Anglo-Saxon thing. But now it's sweeping
Europe from Malmo to Madrid

Thanks for focusing on this issue. We need more reasonable discussions about alcohol. There is such a tendency for this issue to become polarized.

I too am a product of an environment where alcohol was not made a big deal. My family had wine and/or beer at dinner. I was allowed to taste it when I was young. As I got older, I could choose to have a glass of wine with dinner. I was also taught about the concept of moderation and what would happen if you had too much.

In high school and on into college, I watched as my peers around me had a fascination with alcohol... and I believe it happened because they were strictly denied it. Suddenly given access, many kids will give it a try just because it's forbidden.

Anyway, Peele is "flat right" with his point of view. It is abstinence and making alcohol taboo that is 100% wrong.

The only exception may be the tendency for a small subset of the population who seem to have addictive tendencies... they will have problems with any substance that produces a positive emotional response. I believe that's a different issue that needs to be treated as a disease and shouldn't be used as ammunition against the use of alcohol by those who don't have that disease.
I come from a family of boozers, and out of 7 of us kids, not ONE of us has a drinking problem today, nor our kids. We broke the cycle. How? My mother made my father hide his booze. That kind of clued us in as to how she felt--never, NEVER underestimate the power of a mother to influence how her kids think!! Plus, we lived in a state (New Jersey) that does NOT permit booze to be sold in convenient or grocery stores. That alone made a huge difference. (In West Virginia, booze is in the coolers right next to the soda, and in one shop I worked at, Red Bull, a drink popular among children, was located IN THE BEER COOLER, on the door. I will never forget how longingly those kids would be eyeballing that booze. Disturbing, eh??)

Anyway, getting back to this shrink's theory? This "showing them how to drink responsibly" might have worked, say, 100 years ago, but with all easy availibility of all the OTHER stuff out there--pills, especially, seem to be "the 'in thing' among kids here in West Virginia"--letting kids get "a little drunk" once in a while is so stupid, it's almost child abuse.
I have a 26 year old daughter. From the age of 16 I have given her a drink if she asked for it. Now she does not drink much at all. If you say to someone that they cannot do it they just want it more. So when it comes to drinking its up to parents to teach the child about drink and how to control drinking. The leagle age for drinking should not be changed. The legal age is for drinking in public not in the home.
In regards to the kids drinking commentary on your program. I am astonished at how, we as North Americans and mostly descendents of a European lifestyle have not realized that it is thru example at the dinner table that we show our kids how to enjoy life and eating and also drinking. I am of European descent and i have always had wine or beer at our dinner table. This early introduction and responsible example of alcohol usage allowed me to learn to make the right choices. My father offered me wine or beer and i chose and decided there under his guidance. I have found friends of mine who are so focused on reaching the drinking age that the potential for abuse is blatantly obvious. Kids learn by example, weather it is responsblities or pleasures, and teaching moderation early i believe is the key.
I am a 15 year old sophomore. I have never chosen to drink, because my family chooses to have a relaxed, "european" attitude about it. I have tried sips of it, but I find it gross, so I don't drink it. I also have seen the effects of too much alcohol, and I would prefer not to allow myself to become like that.

The problem with this society is that we teach underage kids that alcohol is bad. Children and teenagers are taught, "Don't drink it! It's bad for you. It's ok if adults have it, but you can't!". But then in magazines we are shown images of celebrities partying and drinking, and it is appeared as a cool and a thing to do if you are in the "in" crowd. We are given a mixed message.

Also, teenagers are trying to become independent from their parents, and rebel by breaking their parents' rules by drinking. The worst thing is when parents are over-protective, to the point that it is ridiculous. We understand that you love us, but seriously, allow us some independance, and let us do things without you! It will make us stronger as adults.

If parents approached alcohol differently, teenagers would not be so inclined to drink. I see my parents drink in moderate amounts, and I am allowed to try some if I like. They keep a practical, calm approach to it, and do not regard it as a "forbidden fruit". I have been exposed to alcohol all my life, and as such, I have no interest in drinking. Besides, I think it tastes nasty anyways. The teens who are more likely to drink are the ones who's parents completely ban it from them. I have seen this in high school. To some teenagers (not me), it is dangerous and cool to get drunk illegally. We can drive cars at 16, yet we can't drink until we're 21? There's something wrong with that.
As a parent of 3 teenage daughters, I would rather know that my kids were safe, at someone's house drinking, or at mine, then out driving around hiding the drinking from me. I grew up in a house where we were allowed to have a drink, but if we drank we did not leave the house. Also if any of our friends were there, with their parent’s knowledge, and they drank they spent the night.

All of my girls, and many of their friends have called me for a ride home because they did not have a safe driver or they were to drunk to drive, they know it is safe for them to call me, I am just sad that their friends do not feel they can call their parents. Too many kids don’t have an open communication with their parents.

We live in a very small community where drinking is, unfortunately, a big deal of the kids, every year there is at least one death in the HS due to drinking.

There are to many traffic deaths due to drinking at any age, but teaching our young kids to drink responsibly, use a designated driver, stay at home, or just say no, is the only way we are going to save lives. Also is our responsiblity of any parent, I have gone out and did not feel comfortable driving home, and I have called and had my daughter pick me up. Better safe then sorry.

We want our kids to be honest with us, if they cant, then what are we teaching them.
I would be interested in how drinking has changed since the drinking age was raised. I have teenagers and am around them (I work in a school) and I am not convinced that they really understand moderation - it just seems that most kids operate in extremes at these ages. There is so much surrounding 'being cool' and accepted that I think it would require so many more cultural changes in our society. I know that in Europe there is much emphasis on not drinking and driving because the penalties are so severe. Until we come to that place, for all ages, I am not sure that lowering the drinking age will solve problems. Having said that, though, I think 21 is too high- at least 20 is more reasonable.
Both my parents were alcoholics. They were incapable of showing me how to drink responsibly because they couldn't do it themselves. My sister is an alcoholic and I haven't had a drink in 16 years. Before I stopped drinking, I couldn't have shown my children how to drink responsibly any more than my parents could have. My point is that there are a lot of parents who are full-blown alcoholics who are going to use the excuse of teaching their kids to drink responsibly as a way of continuing and maybe escalating their own drinking. I am in favor of a drinking age of 21 because it has been a big help to me in getting my kids to stay away from alcohol. We don't keep booze in our house. We don't allow underage drinking in our house. We discourage our kids from drinking with their friends and we've told them we'll turn them and their friends over to the police if they drink. Turning 21 doesn't automatically make kids adults but it is the best weapon we have against underage drinking or social hosting of underage drinkers at the moment. I don't want my kids to go through what I saw my family go through because of drinking and the legal argument is the strongest argument I have against drinking.
I believe the drinking age should definitely be lowered. Drinking was never a taboo in my family either. I grew up mostly in Germany, where the drinking age for wine and beer is 16. As far as I know, we have less binge drinking among teenagers and young adults-maybe because of this?

Taboo-ising certain issues such as birth control, drugs, smoking, drinking and so on not only makes them more of a lure for kids, but it also encourages secrecy. A kid who gets drunk with his or her friends is much less likely to call a parent for help if something bad happens than a kid who has been taught that drinking is a horrible, bad thing.
I think this whole "just say no" policy is nonsense. If it hasn't worked 99 times before why would it work the 100th time? I don't understand why our country always goes with only one "solution" to our problems and keeps with that direction despite its numerous failures. (Ex: war on drugs, underage drinking, foreign policy, the energy crisis) If you want to consider our teenagers adults then you have to treat them as such. (I can't get over how we say that at 18 you're old enough to fight and old enough to vote but you're not mature to enjoy a beer. I would think that voting for our president required much more maturity and thought, and was just a little more important.) If you tell our young adults that they're not old enough to be responsible then they are not going to act responsible.
One thing that would help us deal with our problem would be to take our religious notions out of this equation. We're suppose to have a seperation of church and state right? Instead of looking at this problem from a religous and moral view-point lets look at it from a less emotional angle. I really doubt that if alcohol was the temptation of the devil that Jesus Christ would have turned water into wine. Why would a man who is suppose to be sinless make such an evil substance? The answer is because alcohol is a scap-goat used by us. It is an easy way out and we use it because we only think in the short-term in this country. (Ex: Social Security) If you treat alcohol as a taboo and you raise your children to think of it like that then how is someone suppose to enjoy it responsibly when they do become of age? Is it any wonder that people die every year celebrating their 21st birthday?
Instead of raising the drinking age lets slowly lower it over a period of a few years in addition to increased education about how to enjoy it as responsible adults. Lets make our society's preception of drinking to get completly wasted something that is distasteful not cool. Alcohol is not the enemy, the way people abuse it is! Instead of rejecting its role in our culture lets celebrate and embrace it. One positive side-effect of this will be that people will once again drink for quality versus quantity. For when you drink for the taste and as an accompianment to a meal then the notion that when one drinks they have to get drunk will be destroyed. I really doubt that other countries with lower drinking ages have their country-side being terrorized by their liqoured up youth.
personally, my parents let me drink in moderation when I was growing up and although I did go through my "party phase" in high school,I definitely do not have a forbidden fruit view of alcohol. I rarely drink it. I think it was good for my parents to have exposed me to alcohol in moderation at a young age!
I have a 16 year old son. He is learning to drive. He is also learning to drink. He is learning, too, that drinking and driving absolutely do not go together ever, in any form. He is learning this last lesson, as he is learning the first two lessons, from his parents who are careful, law abiding drivers, light social drinkers and people who never, ever, drive having taken even one drink. As a family we are appalled that he will be able to fight and die in battle years before he can drink alcohol. We believe strongly in lowering the drinking age -- or, alternatively, raising the age in which he can be sent off to die preferably to somewhere around 45.
I think people don't often look at the culture that we live in when we decide to create our drinking laws. Unlike other cultures, at 18 our youth leave home in droves (college, military, adventure, etc.) and yet we still say they can't drink. This creates a situation where they have the ability to obtain alcohol and drink in privacy (there are no more parents over their shoulders) and yet they can't drink publicly. This ultimately encourages binge drinking. You can't drink in the club, so you get wasted before the club, and it'll last you for the night (assuming you survive the night). This happens ALL the time.

Also, I think the fact that you can own a gun and get drafted into the military but can't buy a drink just makes no logical sense. If lawmakers want to stop drunk driving, they should make drunk driving laws more strict (what a concept).

Having been to high school parties where alcohol and parents were present, they tend to be much safer than when parents are gone. However, with the current lawsuits surrounding these parties, you absolutely can't be hosting them. You literally are risking everything you have so your kids' friends can get drunk.
I think the drinking age of 21 is good. As a parent of teens, I appreciate the fact that it is not legal and therefore my child is not supposed to drink before age 21. It makes it easier to enforce no drinking at home. When we have wine or beer at home, our teens show little interest, and say the taste is awful anyway. I wouldn't serve serve screwdrivers or run and cokes to make drinking more palatable for them. I know parents who allow their underage kids and their friends to drink in their home. I don't respect these parents.
I completely agree with the stance of Dr. Peele. I finished my undergraduate studies just two years ago. I attended both a big state institution and an Ivy League school. At both schools, I was an extreme socialite and I got to know at least 100 people pretty well. The craziest binge drinkers I met were also usually those raised in the most conservative families. I don't think that kids felt they could make choices while at home with all the pressure put on them by their parents. But, once they were in college and no longer under parental supervision, they experimented with alcohol. Now, this is not always true of course. I've met many people from families who didn't allow drinking kept those beliefs through college. But, I have no doubt binge drinking is somewhat related to the conservative approach many parents take on drinking. Furthermore, I've never met anyone who waited until they were 21 to start drinking. Either they drank before 21 or they never drank. Its foolish to think the age restriction stops drinking. If anything, it drives people underage to go to parties to drink. If they were allowed to drink in bars, would they be binge drinking at paries? I think everyone can agree that a party is the worst place to learn about drinking.
I attended an International High School and European parents would socially host events. This not only provided a safe, monitored forum to consume alcohol, it also totally eliminated drunk driving from the equation. One interesting byproduct of exposing kids to alcohol younger is that, by having them drink before they obtain a license to drive, they are much more capable of "self policing" the alcohol they intake. Children with a mental idea of what "being drunk" feels like will make much more responsible decisions about when they should or should not be behind a wheel.

Just some points to consider...
In Italy children are used to see wine at the dinner table. This makes it simply not applealing as a "forbidden" substance would be for teenagers.
i agree with Dule for the most part. Kids will always drink underage and thats just the truth. It has become part of high school and college culture for a long time, and it`s probably the 2nd most broken law aside from speed limits.I believe they should keep the drinking age for the reasons that not all kids can handle a low drinking age. The only thing that i disagree with the law is that a citizen who is young and mature enough to serve in his/her country cannot drink legally. So there should be acception to this.

Pertaining to the questions in the article, kids probably drink about the same as in preceding generations, but are not recognized as much due to the boom of drugs. The upside to letting your kids drink at home is that you can make sure the kids are safe (e.g. driving home drunk, alcohol related deaths), and not allow these things to happen. although im also underage if i was a parent i`d probably let my kids drink or at least raise them to be aware of things so they`re not idiots.
i agree with Dule for the most part. Kids will always drink underage and thats just the truth. It has become part of high school and college culture for a long time, and it`s probably the 2nd most broken law aside from speed limits.I believe they should keep the drinking age for the reasons that not all kids can handle a low drinking age. The only thing that i disagree with the law is that a citizen who is young and mature enough to serve in his/her country cannot drink legally. So there should be acception to this.

Pertaining to the questions in the article, kids probably drink about the same as in preceding generations, but are not recognized as much due to the boom of drugs. The upside to letting your kids drink at home is that you can make sure the kids are safe (e.g. driving home drunk, alcohol related deaths), and not allow these things to happen. although im also underage if i was a parent i`d probably let my kids drink or at least raise them to be aware of things so they`re not idiots.
what does it matter if we lower the drinking age? kids that are underage now drink anyhow, so what's the difference??
I think having a "drinking age" is ridiculous. There are plenty of "over-age" people who cannot handle drinking at all. There are also plenty of "under-age" people who have no trouble drinking. The age isn't the issue here. It's unique to every person and every situation. I honestly think drinking should be 100% legal for 100% of people. What we should do, rather than have a "drinking age" is to put very severe penalties on crimes related to drinking. It should be perfectly legal for you to get wasted; however, if you get behind the wheel in such a state, you should have your license revoked - permanently. If you do it again, you should spend a decade in prison. A third time? Life. We need to punish the crime. The penalties for any crime committed while intoxicated should be so extremely severe that the vast majority of people would never even consider it, and those who do are rendered incapable of a repeat offense. An 18 year old having a beer with friends isn't hurting anyone (except maybe himself, but he's an adult right?). It's only when he actually does something dangerous (like drive, or fight, or rape) that it becomes a problem. At that point the age makes no difference, he's committed a crime.
The adults in our scociety don't get it.

We are talking about what we did 30-40 years ago -- things don't change because we say they have to.

Kids are kids - and they will do what ever they want to when freedom is at their doorstep.

we seem to think we have a total disaster on our hands - because of what is happening now and reported instantly by the newsies.

There is no more going on now than did when we are growing up.

When are we going to grow up let our parents do thier job.

Everyone wants to be someone elses parent and institute change for others --

Get it right with your own kids and let other parents deal with their kids.

Nowadays, people are not being held responsible for thier actions as they should - because now, we let lawyers step in and say, the other kids are at fault for my son or daughter getting high on something.

Parents and their kids should be the ones that deal with the pain - not the rest of scociety. WE all need to grow up.
Hi Jen,

I am a 21-year-old fourth-year at the University of Virginia. I can tell you from my personal (and recent) experience that in the college environment, there is essentially no "responsible" drinking until around senior year. Why? Because until students are old enough to drink legally (third or fourth year) they can't hang out at bars or drink at restaurants. Their choices are limited to frat parties and house parties, both of which strongly encourage if not require excessive drinking. Young people have the 'now or never' attitude when they drink because they do not have open access to it, and thus they feel an impetus to drink in excess.

I have seen nearly all my friends spend hours over the toilet, and have seen two rushed to the hospital for alcohol poisoning. Another female friend of mine was taken advantage of at a frat party after she had too much to drink.

Their parents took the 'hands off' or 'just say no' attitude, and look where it got them! They have no idea how to drink responsibly because none of their friends do. To say that giving your high-school-age child a glass of wine at dinner is 'child abuse' is inflammatory and asinine. Many other cultures drink younger, and have a much lower rate of alcoholism than the United States does.
I am 25 years old and have been through the drinking phase of my life. Sadly enough my mother has thought I never drank in my life. This is a wake up call to all parents that most teenagers have at the least tried alcohol. It is a big deal, because now I see how one stupid mistake can end up on their record for life. Usually their friends are the major influence in their life. Once they get behind the wheel though, they are the ones that get in trouble and not the friends. I don't drink anymore because I know that I can't afford to get arrested, have a potential physiological or psychological addiction, or care about how much more I can drink than my friends. By the way, hangovers aren't fun either.
Hi Jen,

I am a medical student, 21 years of age, and feel very strongly about the drinking issue for a few reasons.

As many have mentioned, at 18, Americans are able to enlist in the armed forces and defend our nation, but restricted from consuming alcohol...a backwards concept. If we hold the mental capacity to run an armed unit, and take into our hands the lives of others, our psychological maturity must be at a level where we can be trusted to make decisions on our own behalf.

It is also my understanding that the legal drinking age was initially raised from eighteen to twenty-one in an effort to keep alcohol out of high schools. Not even speaking on the fact that alcohol use in high school has increased since that time, I feel it is important to mention that by raising the age three years, we have created restriction in many other places. I attained my bachelors degree this past spring, at the top of my class, at the age of 20...but according to the government and many posters on this site, I did not hold the level of intelligence and awareness to go and celebrate by drinking a beer. I ask if this seems right?
I also share the belief that all empirical evidence clearly points to the 21 year old drinking age causes more problems than it solves and should be modified to a more reasonable lower age. In addition to the empirical evidence, the 21 year old age is morally wrong. It is a civil rights violation to tell someone who is legally an adult; old enough to be married; old enough to vote; old enough to own firearms; old enough to be an adult entertainment model; and old enough to legally kill and be killed in the armed forces that even though everyone knows that they most likely drink in social situations, it is not legal.

With regards to the drunk driving problem (which many people perhaps too simplistically relate to the drinking age issue), I always find it odd that no one comments on the systemic problem in American society, namely the lack of investment for generations in public transportation. This lack of investment makes automobile usage almost mandatory. Perhaps we need to correct this problem. If people are provided alternatives to the automobile for their transportation needs, we shall have less fatalities and injuries caused by automobile accidents.
I think it's interesting that no one has mentioned the effects of alcohol abuse on the teen brain. Pathways and connections in the brain continue to develop into the mid-20s. Damage from alcohol during this development can be long-term and irreversible.

Regardless of the good comments posted above about drinking, pro and con, taboo and education-related, I am the most concerned about my child's brain being permanently damaged by using alcohol too young.

(There are several resources to learn more about this, and I don't have any affiliation with any of them.,,, many others...)
As a child born to a European immigrant family, I completely agree with Peele's quote in this article.

My parents have raised me to drink in moderation from childhood and into my teen years. I resepect such a privledge and don't drink to get drunk, I drink with dinner. Drinking alcohol is an age-old practice, and putting too much pressure on teens to not drink is causing a major thrust to rebellion from the teens' points of view. Once a teenager is out of the house and put in a situation involving alcohol without any previous drinking experience, bad decisions are met.

Parent's can't put an extreme amount of pressure on their kids to not drink, expecially during their teenage years, when their impulses drive most of their actions.
If drinking before the age of 21 is so "harmful" then why do all the European countries where the drinking age is 18 surpass the United States in life expectancy?
I live in a Canadian province where the legal age is 19. (It was 18 when I was growning up) I have 4 sons, 22,20,16 &13. I have never had any problems with them drinking or doing anything else illegal. Our children were brought up knowing that we obey the law and that is not drinking until they were 19. And I know for sure that my kids are not drinking behind my back like some of you reading this might be thinking!

I very rarely even have alcohol myself and I think the best way to keep your kids safe and knowing right from wrong is being a good role model.
I never went through the binge drinking when I was a teenager. I went to lots of parties and saw guys standing outside throwing up. Well that was enough for me not to want to drink!
When I hear of parents buying alcohol for their kids to take to a party and just remind them "not to drink and drive" before they leave for the party is crazy. Once they start drinking they just don't have good judgement on who they are getting into a car with and if that person is "okay" to drive. Have these parents explained (or even know themselves) about alcohol posioning? Throwing up is a form of alcohol poisoning and that should be a concern as well.

As for the lower drinking age in Canada, it makes no difference what so ever in the number of young teens killed from drinking and driving. I actually think that Canada should raise the drinking age!
I have also read that the brain is still maturing in the late teens and that alcohol shouldn't be consumed before about age 21. Maybe Dr Gupta can shed some light on this subject.
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends -- info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
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