Casualties of excess

Nathan Humpherys

Disturbed by the frequency and severity of underage binge drinking, 129 college presidents and chancellors have signed the Amethyst Initiative this summer in an attempt to lower the drinking age.Binge drinking is defined as one person consuming five or more drinks in the period of about two hours, said Susan Horton, an instructor in the MCC psychology department.

The compulsion to drink excessively among students is fueled by a number of factors, Horton said.

The desire to fit in, the rush provided by sudden consumption of alcohol, and the excitement of participating in a taboo activity all draw students toward alcohol.

Another factor brought up by both Horton and the Amethyst Initiative’s statement on their Web site is that students are being treated as adults, usually for the first time in their lives.

Students can smoke, vote, serve on a jury, sign contracts, enlist in the military, at 18 and therefore feel they’re entitled to the other trappings of adulthood, namely alcohol.

The problem is the parts of students’ brains responsible for judgment don’t mature until they’re 25-years-old, Horton said.

According to Horton and the statistics provided by the Center for Disease Control, binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning, poor sexual decisions, intentional injuries (such as fights) and unintentional injuries (such as falls, crashes, and burns).

Those who support a lower drinking age say bringing it out into the open will help students see how more mature adults handle alcohol. Campus leaders spoke to students about how to drink responsibly rather than having to harp on what they deem to be ineffective “zero-tolerance” policies.

Horton said she’s not sure if giving more access to more people is the answer, but both she and those behind the Amethyst Initiative agree that the most crucial step to addressing binge drinking is increased education among students.

Horton stressed that more than anything, students need to learn how their bodies and minds react to alcohol, what appropriate actions there are for those who drink, and how to see the signs of abuse and dependence.

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