In colleges and even in some high schools, drinking -- particularly binge drinking -- is like a sport.
Alcohol is considered something fun, a way to unwind and party and loosen inhibitions. Of course, most of the kids who drink to excess would never dream of smoking crack cocaine or injecting heroin into their veins, but according to a UK study, alcohol may in fact be more dangerous than narcotics.
Led by the sacked government drugs adviser David Nutt with colleagues from the breakaway Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, the study says that if drugs were classified on the basis of the harm they do, alcohol would be class A, alongside heroin and crack cocaine.
Amazing. And yet drinking is such a part of the landscape and such a "norm" for so many of us, we would never see it that way. But college binge drinking is no small thing.
Drinking on college campuses is responsible for many sexual assaults, suicides, injuries, and countless hospitalizations.
In the past year alone 599,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 were unintentionally injured under the influence of alcohol. It's a problem. And the problem has one potentially interesting solution: demythologize liquor from a young age.
When I was 19, I lived in Florence, Italy for a semester. There, drinking was not nearly the most exciting thing to college students and the reason was simple: been there, done that. For many young Italians, wine had been on the table since they were babies and they had been allowed to partake (in moderation, natch).
I also grew up in a home where I was allowed the occasional glass of wine and, by the time I got to college, I wasn't all that interested. Of the friends I knew who drank with their parents in moderation, on occasion, drinking wasn't that exciting. For the ones who had it forbidden? It was the opposite.
No one wants to be that crazy mother who buys booze for underage kids, but if there is a bottle of wine on the table and my 15-year-old requests a glass, depending on her maturity, I may allow it.
It might seem counterintuitive, but drinking is something that is learned, like eating habits and exercise. If you grow up in a family that eats healthy foods and whole grains and works out regularly, you're much more likely to practice those habits in adulthood.
The same goes for drinking. If you model healthy drinking habits and let your children partake moderately on occasion, then you set them up for a healthy attitude toward the hootch.
Would you consider letting your teenager have a glass of wine?
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