Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Maine colleges taking action to prevent alcohol harm

We applaud the efforts of Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin Colleges to take preventative steps to decrease the negative effects of underage drinking and high risk drinking on their campuses.

The Minimum Legal Drinking Age of 21 was set back in 1984 to reduce the death toll from high risk drinking in youth and young adults. This is now considered one of the most successful public health policies in United States history saving an estimated 900 lives/year. Youth drinking rates have also steadily declined over this period of time as youth’s access to alcohol through only slightly older siblings and friends has been stymied.

The good news for educators is that, if they’re determined to make a difference, they can. A new report out by Children’s Hospital Boston says that when tough campus policies are consistently enforced, they “can reduce underage drinking and heavy episodic drinking on campus - without a ‘compensatory’ rise in marijuana use.”

By creating and enforcing rules against underage drinking, colleges are helping young people develop social skills without drinking, as well as teaching them to respect the law. More importantly, by waiting to consume alcohol until after 21, youth and young adults will be less likely to have negative alcohol outcomes—like injury, dependency, and other physical and mental health consequences.

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