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Underage Drinking: Things Have Changed



len anthonyBy Len Anthony  ||  When I was a teenage young man in the late 1970s, there was alcohol, girls and drugs.  The legal age for purchasing and consuming beer was eighteen, for liquor it was 21.  As a result, we mostly drank beer. Most of us tasted our first beer when we were sixteen or seventeen.

My friends and I did most of our drinking in conjunction with pursuing girls.  We never drank for the sole purpose of getting drunk, rather drinking was done as part of some other social activity.  If someone drank until they vomited they were either a novice (who made the standard prayer: God if you will just stop the puking, I promise I will never drink again), or a “light weight.”

Drinking to the point of vomiting was not a badge of honor.  Regarding drugs, the only drug anyone I knew used was marijuana.  From high school through college, none of my friends were killed or injured due to the consumption of drugs or alcohol.  In fact, to this day, I do not know anyone who died from anything other than natural causes.

Fast forward to teenage young men today and I see the magnificent three are still present: alcohol, drugs and girls.  But the treatment of all three seems to have changed substantially.  When teenage and early college young men drink today the goal often seems to be, as Jimmy Buffett would describe it, to become “commode hugging” drunk.  Vomiting is probably not the intended result, but it is an acceptable risk associated with becoming extremely inebriated.  Sometimes the reason for getting knee walking drunk is what is known as “pre-gaming.”  Because the lawful age for consumption of any alcohol is 21, underage drinkers planning to attend a football game, party, concert, etc. believe they need to become so drunk before the event that they will remain drunk through the event.  Getting drunk enough to stay drunk for several hours without supplemental alcohol will often produce “commode hugging.”

The changes involving women are more extreme.  It appears that young men no longer pursue women because women come to them.  Dating seems to be passé.  “Hooking up” is the rule of today.  While the term “hooking up” has many definitions, including sex, at a minimum, it means the girls go to the boys.

Turning to drugs, the use of marijuana is pervasive.  The use of cocaine is not unusual and heroin is growing in popularity.  While not an illegal drug, a large number of high school and college students are on Adderall.  Regarding grass, the argument made is that everyone smokes grass, it is not as harmful as alcohol, several United States Presidents have admitted to its use, and at least local law enforcement does not care.

(A bit of humor, California Governor “Moonbeam” Jerry Brown recently said: “How many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?”)

Finally, my children have had four friends die as a result of alcohol or drug use, one friend fracture his neck due to an alcohol related accident, several taken to urgent care for alcohol poisoning or injuries needing stitches resulting from being drunk, and a few are in jail.

To sum it up, from my direct observations today’s high school and early college age young people drink more excessively than my generation, they do a greater number of drugs, they do more dangerous drugs, “romance ” (for want of a better word) has noticeably decreased among them, and they are injured and die much more often due to their alcohol and drug use than in my day.

I hope my observations are the exception rather than the rule. But if they are not, I can think of only one group of people whose actions have resulted in these changes: these young people’s parents.

Len Anthony spent thirty years as in-house counsel for a public utility. He’s now semi-retired living in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. Wanna sound off on FITS? Submit your letter to the editor or opinion column HERE.

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