A recent study in the United Kingdom found that alcohol has a more harmful impact on society than other drugs, including crack cocaine and heroine. The study was surprising, but makes sense in light of the fact that alcohol is so readily available in our society. It takes some work to find the local crack dealer, but you can “get your drink on” almost anywhere you like.
I found the study to be interesting primarily because the justification previously used for disproportionate incarceration for crack-related offenses was that the crack trade was dangerous for our society. So, the kid on the corner caught with a vile of dope was given a sentence that would never be leveled on the 19-year old college student who binge drinks on the weekend.
The study tells an interesting story about the impact of alcohol on all of us. College students have been allowed to think that binge drinking is normal, when the truth is that it’s deadly. I’ve taught at the college level for the past 17 years and each year, there are inevitably a long list of rapes, assaults, and arrests in alcohol-related incidents. Also, while it seems cool to be the 20-year old student who drinks like a fish every weekend, no one thinks about the fact that this kid may turn into a 30-40 year old alcoholic. Hip hop songs telling you to get wasted every weekend are doing nothing except helping you to create a life of misery, vulnerability and ultimately self-destruction.
As much as police find themselves anxious to arrest kids in the hood for carrying drugs, I’d love to see them show the same courage when heading to college campuses to catch underage drinking. We can’t make excuses for one segment of society, while taking no excuses from the other. Most mind-altering substances are dangerous for young people, so we need to start telling the truth.