May 08

Have Another Round: The Solution to College’s Drinking Problem

Have Another Round: The Solution to College’s Drinking Problem

Wayne Butler

When people think of college, many imagine half naked men and women in beer drenched togas chanting as beer spews forth from kegs like lava from Mt. St. Helens. From Animal House to Old School, numerous movies have described the drinking excesses of college students and for good reason; it happens. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 80% of college students have used alcohol (i.e. having a wine with dinner) and about half have engaged in excessive binge drinking (i.e. drinking one’s height in beer cans).

What is it about college that drives just under half of the students to consume mass quantities of alcohol? Have they cracked under the unrelenting pressure of Psychology 100 exams? Are they overwhelmed with home sickness and longing to spend more quality time with their parents? Do they simply lack the mental coping skills necessary to deal with stress after being coddled by over indulgent parents and grades school teachers that were more interested in building up self-esteem with 12th place ribbons than resilience and grit? What drives them to engage in such gluttony? The answer is simple, supply and demand.

In order to understand what motivates students to drink, we must remember that in general people like to drink alcohol. It is an enjoyable and relaxing activity for many people. This is why the alcohol industry generated over $400 billion dollars in 2010. Also, up until college, most students could not access alcohol, because vigilant parents watched over them like hawks. But once they moved away to college, the environment dramatically changed in a jiffy. With the parental cats many hours away, the college mice were now free to play, and some chose to celebrate their new found freedom by freely indulging in a few too many libations. When their access to alcohol went from zilch to limited, the binge drinking began.

It is interesting to note that not all college students engage in binge drinking. Some college students exhibit restraint by drinking responsibly while others did not, but why? One of the main reasons is supply. If you look at who is engaging in binge drinking, it is usually under age students who are unable buy alcohol for themselves. The government creates an artificial alcohol shortage by preventing college students under the age of 21 from purchasing alcohol directly from stores. The limited supply for those under 21 increases the demand that they have for alcohol. When an under aged student goes to a party, they know they will only be able to drink alcohol at this location. Once they leave or the alcohol runs out, they are out of luck. This results in underage students becoming highly motivated to consume as much alcohol as they can in a short period of time.

What then is the solution to this problem if an artificial shortage is causing an increase in binge drinking?  It is actually quite simple; all we need to do is increase the supply of beer by doing away with drinking age limits for college students. Many college presidents have already come to this exact conclusion. From the Ohio State University to Duke University, over 100 college presidents are in favor of lowering the drinking age to 18. This desire to reduce the harm of needless binge drinking has led to a movement called the Amethyst Initiative, which desires to open the debate about lowering the drinking age.

Despite the logic of lowering the drinking age, some teetotalling party poopers continue to poo-poo any change. But does such vehement opposition make sense? Let us examine the evidence; are people over the age of 21 engaging in as much binge drinking as those who are under? Is grandma getting plastered on the porch? Are police officers chugging brewskis in their cruisers? Do rocket scientists spend all day long doing keg stands? No, because they do not have a limited access to alcohol.

If people really care about reducing binge drinking on college campuses, they need to allow college students to drink alcohol. In order to end binge drinking, college students need to drink more beer.

small beer













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