Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Can science and drinking co-exist?

June 10, 2008 - Is there a difference between 19 and 21? What happens in those two years that makes one more mature? What of the difference between 18 and 19? Between 18 and 19 years old, you finish high school and head off to your first year of Uni. Now, thinking back on my first year of college, I wouldn't say I grew in that year. I might have regressed a year (maybe more). Between 19 and 21 - the sophomore - senior years, one can regress as much as 5 years worth. While you are putting great new information in to the gray matter, one or two may also be flushing the system so to speak.

I wonder if geography makes a difference - the farther north you are, the more mature you might be. Are Canadians more mature than our US counterparts? Does the winter chill give us an advantage - or is it what drives us to seek Southern Comforts? Who decides how old you need to be to consume alcohol?

In Canada, each province has their own legal drinking age. Going West to East - 19 (BC)- 18 (AB) - 19 (SK) - 18 (MB) - 19 (ON) - 18 (PQ) - 19 (Maritimes). South of the border the legal drinking age is 21. The drinking age in Canada in the 70's was almost all 21 (except Saskatchewan, Ontario and PEI, where it was 18). When the drinking age was lowered in every other province, Saskatchewan, Ontario and PEI chose to raise theirs to 19. In 1984, the USA enacted the National Minimum Drinking Age Act that forced all states to raise their age to 21. The USA has the highest legal drinking age in the world, yet researchers everywhere have found that an increase in the drinking age has little to no effect on the alcohol consumption behaviors of young adults. College goers are going to drink whether they are freshmen, sophomores, juniors or seniors. Raising the age does not reduce consumption. 1.

Most of us drank more between 18 and 21 than we do as 'adults'. Maybe if we really want to have an impact on alcohol consumption, the answer is to lower the drinking age. Get it out of our systems before we have drivers licenses, or the income to buy trouble. Then, when we get to college, we can focus on the things we are there to learn... theories and relationships (not necessarily in that order). I don't suppose eliminating the minimum drinking age will solve all alcohol related problems in society, but hey... research suggests it couldn't hurt. Until then, we have Alcoholics Anonymous.

On June 10, 1935, AA was founded in Ohio by Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Smith. It was the day that Dr. Bob took his last drink - and set about to help others do the same. I suppose if you are going to take drinking out of your social repertoire it would be easier if you can find others to do the same. There is power in numbers. Today, alcoholics everywhere can celebrate Alcoholics Anonymous Day. Raise a glass (of club soda) to Dr. Bob. His drinking, and his work, have provided an outlet for former drinkers to find like minded individuals to go for coffee with the world over. Now is there a Caffeineaholics Anonymous out there for me? When I'm ready to give up coffee I'll be looking for a group of people to go drinking with.


1. Legal drinking age: Science vs. Ideology

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