“Shots. Shots. Shots.” The typical chant of a college party. The liquor is flowing, the music is booming, and the people are dancing. This social drinking culture is a rite of passage for many young adults. However, if you surveyed the crowd, many of them would probably be underage.
Underage adults have to rely on house parties, fraternity parties, or buying liquor through a third party, such as an older friend, in order to get their hands on alcohol. This process makes it more difficult, but does not deter them very much. It does not reduce the amount of alcohol consumed by underage drinkers by a large margin at all (Alcohol Access).

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The means by which young adults get alcohol poses a danger however. Drinking straight from a bottle at a large party can put the party goers at risk for not only catching colds or other germy infections, but can add the risk of ingesting a date rape drug, such as Rohypnol, or as it is more commonly known: “roofies” (Weir). If college students over the age of eighteen were allowed to purchase their own alcohol, even if it was limited to certain quantities or ABV rates, it would immensely diminish the consequences faced by relying on others they might not trust to traffick them booze.

According to Wegner, when people are supposed to keep things secret, they become more attracted to the idea of it. This principle can be applied to alcohol consumption in underage adults. The allure to drink and to do something they are not legally supposed to encourages them to engage even more in this risky behavior. This increased desire to drink can lead to a higher incidence of binge drinking, which can lead to even more alcohol-related problems (Wechsler).

The incidence of binge drinking is predicted by the adoption of a party-centered life-style and participation in Greek life. Considering many underage adults have little choice as to where to get their alcohol, they are forced to attend these parties in order to be able to drink. This atmosphere promotes a binge drinking lifestyle, and since these young people have very little previous experience with alcohol, this lifestyle ingrains the ideas of binge drinking and party culture into their drinking habits.

Drinking at a bar, where you are in a public venue and there are bouncers, security, and bartenders who can enforce safe drinking practices, is a much better avenue for learning drinking habits. Feeling like the only choice is to drink in secret, sneak alcohol around, and drink a lot in a small period of time in order to get your share before the keg is out, promotes very unsafe drinking practices. It has the same effect as sexual abstinence policies: very little education about the activity it is trying to prevent, but it results in a lot of risky behvavior due to an unsatisfied curiosity (Hauser). An abstinence policy for alcohol will not work.

College students are going to drink. It is part of the culture, it is part of growing up, and it is a rite of passage for many young adults. It is important to enact legislation in order to make sure they do so in the safest way possible. Allowing eighteen year olds to learn safe drinking practices by allowing them into bars, and allowing them to purchase small amounts of alcohol will greatly influence their habits in the future. Forcing them to learn habits from peers who also have very little experience just encourages to abuse the substance and engage in unsafe behaviors.

  • “Alcohol Access.” California Court Info. Administrative Office of the Courts, n.d. Web.
    Hauser D. Five Years of Abstinence Only Until Marriage Education: Assessing the Impact. Washington, DC: Advocates for Youth, 2004;
  • Wechsler, G W Dowdall, A Davenport, and S Castillo.  Correlates of college student binge drinking. American Journal of Public Health July 1995: Vol. 85, No. 7, pp. 921-926.
  • Wegner, Daniel M.; Lane, Julie D.; Dimitri, Sara. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 66(2), Feb 1994, 287-300.
  • Weir, Erica. “Drug Facilitated Date Rape.” CMAJ 165.1 (2001): 80. Web.