The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

48° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Race to the bottom(of the glass)

    Often the escape of underclassmen trapped in the dorms, house parties in Pima County now need to be thrown on the down-low.

    The “”Social Host Ordinance”” was passed recently, holding owners accountable for parties thrown on their property. Of course, this law has been passed for the children since “”underage drinking continues to be the number one substance abuse problem for youth in Arizona,”” in the words of Gov. Jan Brewer If experience with marijuana has taught us one thing, rigid law enforcement is the perfect answer for combating substance abuse problems (pause for sarcastic snort).

    Instead of treating substance abuse, increased criminalization looks to stop underage drinking by fear and intimidation. Even if younger students abide throughout their first two or three years in school, the state has effectively built up thousands of powder kegs waiting to explode at midnight.

    Having been argued for decades, the very idea and specifics of the American legal drinking age are suspect. The 21-year limit institutionalizes misconceptions regarding age and maturity in the following conclusion. “”Twenty-one-year-olds can drink because they are mature enough.”” All it would take is one night on Fourth Avenue to quickly expose this fallacy.

    Apart from the arbitrary limit itself, opponents of underage drinking decry the physical and emotional strain caused by alcohol abuse to minors. However, they would have you believe that turning 21 affords everyone an extra layer of immunity to such harms.

    A great disservice to combating underage drinking is the classification of “”binge”” drinking. “”Binge”” is defined as a “”period of unrestrained, immoderate indulgence.”” Taking into account this definition, an image of a sloppy drunk swaying down Fourth Avenue comes to mind. Many students would be surprised to hear that “”binge”” drinking is classified by the National Institue of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as consuming five drinks within a two-hour period, which could mean anything from a quick power hour to a long day at the beach.

    As many wildcats will attest, consuming five drinks in one outing is child’s play. “”A usual night on Fourth Avenue is about 3 hours or so,”” attests political science junior Wade Beavers. Spread over several hours, a combined five drinks may produce a buzz, but nothing resembling the traditional sloppiness of authentic binge drinking. While five drinks in three hours can arguably cause intoxication, what about five drinks in six hours? The rigid classification of binge drinking, which includes both of these time frames, is out-of-touch, impractical, and downright counterproductive.

    At this point, some may argue that the effects of alcohol vary too much from person to person, depending on many factors, to dispel any notion of traditional binge drinking. To that I say: exactly! Developing a certain standard or recognition of binge drinking should take into account this variability and aim for a higher, more accurate indicator. Personal opinion or morality aside, one cannot legitimately claim five drinks over three hours is “”unrestrained or immoderate.””

    The lower benchmark for binge drinking serves little purpose other than artificially increasing the pervasiveness of underage drinking. If it were to take one drink to be considered a binge, every person consuming alcohol would have a huge problem. If it took fifteen drinks, then binge drinking would rank evenly with jaywalking on the social epidemic list. Widening the criteria for binge drinkers dilutes the attention given to those with serious alcohol abuse. Instead of paying attention to those having five drinks, advocacy groups should focus on those consuming much higher levels.

    Before I become the victim of a Mothers Against Drunk Driving beat-down, my qualms with binge drinking do not extend past their stated relevance. One can consume a level of alcohol lower than that of binge status and still represent a potential threat behind the wheel. Necessary in any pragmatic approach to underage drinking, personal responsibility cannot be overstated. Individuals must be vigilant in their drinking to avoid any harm to oneself or others.

    Invoking the essence of personal responsibility, proponents like Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV must restrain their campaign to more concrete assertions. Claiming that every college student is a binge drinker may force many to speak out, but the added support comes at the price of legitimacy. Adding to the notion that binge drinking is undertaken by all college students, CAFST and other groups may create a standard for incoming students to “”live up to.”” Though these groups are run by hard-working, passionate individuals, the struggle to reach their goals has forced many to present this issue in an extreme light. Yes, underage drinking is a problem across all universities, but lowering the qualifications is a convenient statistical manipulation. Instead of trying to alleviate underage drinking, the goals of advocates should mirror that of legal-age drinking, which are to tackle issues of serious alcohol abuse.

    – Daniel Sotelo is a political science junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search