Most alcohol abuse education is ineffective. It’s sometimes even counter-productive. Often young people begin drinking to defy authority. It’s important that we effectively teach young people about the dangers of alcohol abuse. We must also prepare them to drink safely. That is, if they choose to drink when they’re of legal drinking age.
Harm reduction doesn’t dictate to students. It prepare them to make careful choices about abstaining or drinking. Of course, some students will continue to drink. So it also teaches ways to avoid abusing alcohol.
Harm reduction is non-authoritarian. It also treats students with respect. Therefore, students are less likely to begin drinking to defy adult authority.
Ineffective Alcohol Education
We have proof about what doesn’t work. Although they continue to be used, “scare” tactics are not effective. Teaching that alcohol is a poison. That parents who enjoy a drink are drug users. Or that drinking is a gateway leading to hard drug use. And showing pictures of cirrhotic livers. These things have never been effective. They weren’t when temperance activists used them. And they aren’t when we use them today.
Very young students tend to believe scare messages. But they later realize that such teachings are false. Of course, this destroys the credibility of later alcohol education. And those who provide it.
Effective Alcohol Education
It’s clear that simply teaching abstinence is ineffective. Most young people drink. But we can continue to teach them abstinence. At the same time we can teach them how legal drinkers can avoid alcohol abuse. This prepares them for adulthood. At the same time it gives potentially life-saving knowledge for those who choose to drink before age 21.
Standard DrinksAmong many other things, we can teach them these things.
- Standard drinks of beer, wine, and spirits all have the amount of pure alcohol. It’s six-tenths of an ounce.
- Women of the same hight and weight as men are intoxicated at lower levels of drinking. See Alcohol is Sexist.
- Eating before and/or while drinking reduces the rate at which BAC rises.
- Wise drinkers pace their drinks.
- To know common but often dangerous alcohol myths.
- Avoid punches and other drinks of uncertain alcohol levels.
- To recognize medical emergenicies from excessive drinking and know how to give help.
Young people resent prohibitions. Of course, adults age 18-20 especially resent being treated as children. They also resent the discrimination they suffer. By drinking alcohol, especially in excess, they can rebel against their demeaned status.
Alcohol educators need to establish their credibility in order to be effective. Dr. Rodney Skager of UCLA is an expert. He says “education on the subject is more likely to be effective under a harm minimization rather than abstinence-only philosophy. The former inevitably includes more credible information.”
Drinking to Defy Adult Authority
- Cheung, Y. et al. Harm Reduction.
- Marlatt, G. et al. Harm Reduction.
- Skager, R. Having Fun and Defying Adults. Addict, 104(4), 576-577.