The Arizona Desert Lamp

Drinking Age, Cont.

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 28 August 2008

Shocking news from UT-Austin:

College students today celebrate 21st birthdays with an average of 12 drinks for men and nine for women, finds the most in-depth picture yet of the consequences of extreme partying.

The University of Texas at Austin research found 78 percent of students cited ill effects, including hangovers (54 percent). Of 44 percent who had blackouts, 22 percent found out later that they had sex; 22 percent got in a fight or argument. And 39 percent didn’t know how they got home.

Next you’ll be telling me that public sex acts are illegal! Oh, wait. I’m a bit surprised at how low these numbers are: only 54 percent with hangovers? Although this is probably the most amusing study these researchers have done in their careers, the results also yielded a pertinent insight:

Texas’ larger study of 2,200 also looked at drinking in the two weeks before and after the 21st birthday and found frequency of drinking increases after 21, but quantity decreases.

Psychology professor Kim Fromme, who directs the Texas study, says turning 21 decreases the risk associated with heavy episodic drinking. Overall, the research found most students drank twice a week or less; 19-year-olds drank the most.

So much for that argument. An aspect of the drinking age debate that sometimes gets overlooked is the fact that if the drinking age were 18, many drinking-age birthdays would occur while the new adults were still living at home. While there certainly would still be a good deal of shenanigans, the home environment could do a lot to stymie some of the more outrageous and dangerous behavior that occurs when that kid heads off to college.

As Tyler Cowen has pointed out, if the current policy were so effective, why not make the drinking age 25? 50? Hell, why not ban the substance outright? Oh, right: we did, and it was a miserable failure. Yet some people never learn:

Laura Dean-Mooney, national president of the Irving, Texas-based Mothers Against Drunk Driving, isn’t convinced.

“Increasing access is not going to reduce binge drinking. Access would be increased,” she says.

Because that worked in the 1920s. And it really works now, since freshmen who finally get their hands on some liquor are in no way inclined to overdo it. Right? Right?

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