The SAMHSA Underage Drinking Study And what it really tells us ...

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There has been a great outcry in the press the last few days about a study released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in which it is revealed that an estimated "40 percent of underage drinkers received free alcohol from adults over [age] 21." Most members of the press are tripping over themselves parroting the party line, which condemns the accommodating adults for their lawless attitude and apparent willingness to "directly enable their children's underage drinking — in essence encouraging them to risk their health and wellbeing."

None dare to ask the obvious question: What do the results of this study really reveal?

Maybe it is because I grew up in Europe, that I have little difficulty seeing this very differently. Two things seem painfully obvious to me:

  1. Almost half of the nation's adult population (probably more when one considers that many would have invoked the 5th) consider minimum (alcohol) drinking age legislation irrelevant and therefore choose to ignore them.
  2. This is another fine example of the meddling nanny state at its worst.

Claiming that underage drinking, regardless of the circumstances, by definition endangers children's health and wellbeing is precisely the kind of hyperbolic nonsense one would expect from a federal agency with a name even more torturous than the TSA's. Where I grew up, there were no laws restricting the age at which one might imbibe. Instead, it was assumed and understood by all, that parents would and should educate their children at an early age in the obvious dangers posed by overindulgence in alcoholic beverages. What better way to do this, than by letting them have a taste in the safe environment of the family home?

Typically these lessons took place well before reaching puberty. The first and last time in my life that I got out of control drunk was at age 8 or thereabouts, in the safety of our family home and with my parents in loving attendance. The result was predictable. By the time I became a hormonal teenager, my peers and I had long since learned how to handle alcohol responsibly. At age 16, we were only interested in impressing each other with our detailed understanding of the finer differences between Amontillado, Oloroso and Manzanilla Sherry. Binge drinking was totally unknown to us and getting drunk was viewed by us as an embarrassingly juvenile lack of self-control.

Back to the study and its claims that the offending parents are "enabling underage drinking." So they are, but not in the way that the bureaucrats would have us believe. What these parents are doing is the only sensible thing a loving parent can do. They are indeed enabling their underage children to drink, but to do so responsibly. Incidentally, we learned these lessons well before we started driving motorized vehicles.

My message to all you parents of young children therefore is simple. Ignore the nanny state and teach your children at an early age how to handle alcohol responsibly and while you're at it, teach them how to handle guns as well. They'll love you and be much safer for it.

Robert Eschauzier [send him mail] describes himself as a life-long entrepreneurial adventurer. An avowed anarchist, he has never cast a "democratic" vote, nor accepted a penny of plunder from any government agency. He currently lives in the Chicago area.

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