Over the years, I had at least two teenage neighbors who got into serious trouble with alcohol. One of them was binge drinking at a party, passed out in a position that cut off circulation to part of his body. Nobody noticed for hours. He survived, body intact, thanks to intense medical interventions. It was his wake up call, and he turned his life around.
Another had issues with alcohol, drugs, and serious depression. Said one of her parents to me at the height of the crisis, "There is nothing out there for middle-class families." Wealthy families can afford everything, and (this person's perception was that) there were possibilities for poor people. (Note: I'm not sure that second part is right; and even money can't always buy you solutions.)
Conversation with my 160-pound teenager:
Me: "How much alcohol do you think you could tolerate in one sitting before you would be over the legal driving limit?"
Teen: "Seven or eight drinks."
Well, NO! Not Exactly. Which is why--just as we need to talk about sex with our kids--we need to talk about alcohol and drugs. Avoiding the subject, or assuming that if you tell them to abstain, they will abstain, does not work. Believe me, I wish it did. In a lot of areas of my life, I try to model good behaviors for my kids. However, typically that is for things that they can legally do (such as wearing a helmet while bicycling). Since none of my kids are 21 yet, my modelling of drinking a glass of wine or bottle of beer once or twice a week, is not something that can be practiced, legally, now.
Teen (paraphrasing): Well, what would be the point of only drinking one glass? It doesn't taste good, the point is to get drunk.
Well, NO! Not Exactly. But I don't think that my teen is at all unique in taking this point of view.
Binge drinking is clearly a problem, and it is scary.
Conversation in a class I was in during graduate school:
Student #1: I am a recovering alcoholic. I started bringing vodka to high school in my sophomore year. This went on for two years. I was still an A/B student.
Rest of class: Then what happened?
Student #1: My chemistry teacher noticed, and intervened.
In Saline not too long ago, parents were partying on school property! Which might be the wrong kind of parental modelling.
See the report for Washtenaw County, Underage and Under the Influence. It's sobering. (Pun intended.) In Dexter and Pinckney, there are now coalitions to end underage drinking. The Youth Photovoice project is interesting.
When I started college, I could drink legally. Now, most students cannot. Here are two discussions (one is a video embedded in the text) on whether the drinking age should be lowered from 21 to 18.