Most alcohol abuse education is not effective. It’s sometimes even counter productive. Often young people begin drinking to defy adults. It’s important that we 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 treats students with respect. So they’re less likely to begin drinking to defy adults.
Ineffective Alcohol Education
We have proof about what doesn’t work. “Scare” tactics are not effective. Nor is 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. Nor is showing pictures of cirrhotic livers. These things have never been effective. The weren’t when temperance activists used them. And they aren’t when we use them now.
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 of those who provide it.
Effective Alcohol Education
It’s clear that simply teaching abstinence is not effective. 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. It also gives 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 emergencies 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 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 facts.”