Jay's World of Abstracts

Jay's World of Abstracts 00014

Two-Fisted Double Standards

Mike Males
c Youth Today, June 2000

[Standard disclaimer: The nature of abstracts are that they are pieces of something larger. Not everyone is going to be happy with my choice of abstracts from any larger work, so if you are dissatisfied, I would refer you to the original document, which should be able to be found on the Internet. I encourage others to make their own abstracts to satisfy their needs.

Jay's Introduction

This is a really interesting commentary on substance abuse, specifically alcohol. Though it seems there is an ax to grind here, it does make one think. I think it is useful to hear as many sides of an issue as possible. This is definately a passionate voice.

I produced this abstract using time paid for by the Quay County Maternal Child and Community Health Council with funds from the New Mexico Department of Health.


...there is no "teenage drinking problem." There is only an "American drinking problem," and the cause of it is YOU. Your teenagers don't drink because of Budweiser bullfrogs, "peer pressure," or "youth rebellion." Teens drink because YOU drink. Socially-approved, legal adult drinkers peddle their habit in front of teenagers in every conceivable locale.


Check Highway Patrol and vital records. In California, the numbers are scary: even though middle-agers drink about as often as high schoolers, 40 year-olds are twice as likely to drunkenly kill and injure, and five times more likely to die from overdrinking, than 17 year-olds are. Nearly all the children and half the teenagers dying in drunken crashes are killed by “overaged” drinkers 21 and older.


As James Baldwin observed, kids don’t care what adults say; they imitate what adults do. Nearly all teens with drinking problems come from families and communities whose adults abuse alcohol or drugs. Teenagers learn to drink from the example set by elders. But, just try suggesting (as I did) that school administrators and counselors champing to impose “zero tolerance” and drug testing on students pledge to abstain from drinking and take drug tests themselves -- or do adults need booze so badly we can’t set good examples? Get ready for creative excuses!

Wiser societies set tough rules for adult alcohol use and provide safe settings for children and teenagers to learn to handle drinking as they grow up. New Zealand has the right idea. In December 1999, it lowered its legal drinking age to 18, permitted youths under 18 to drink in private and in public with parents, and sharply tightened drunken driving and highway safety laws. In the first four months of 2000, New Zealand experienced its lowest traffic death toll since 1964 -- including a 20 percent decline in teenage fatalities.

Alcohol is too serious for prevention programs to continue indulging dangerous frivolousness about peers, frogs, and absolutist teen-abstinence fantasies that will never happen. As with smoking, drugs, guns, sex, and violence, effective prevention recognizes that teenagers are not rebels, but conformists, to adult values and habits.

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