Let the debate drinking games begin

Forget about The Hunger Games. The latest craze sweeping the nation is Debate Drinking Games. Blame it on peer pressure, political anxiety, or simply the desire to party, but a new phenomenon has appeared in the current election cycle. Every time Obama says “millionaire” or Romney mentions “private sector,” you toss back a shot. And if you start to lose track after a few rounds, just keep your eyes on Twitter, which has become an necessity in the drinking game phenomenon. Blame the new fad on apathy or political anxiety, but the new excuse for binge drinking has taken off like a rocket on college campuses, where health experts have already proclaimed an alarming increase in alcohol consumption in recent years.

But hold on a second. While the tedium of the current presidential campaign may have people of all ages reaching for a bottle, the actual trends among teen and young adults are not bad at all. In fact, numerous studies have shown that harmful behaviors of all kinds have been declining among young people for most of the past decade. According to a recent report in Time Magazine entitled “College Binge Drinking: How Bad is the Problem Really?,” among Americans aged 18 to 20, “less than one third binge drank (five or more drinks on one occasion) in the last month — but 53% of people that age drank no alcohol at all. In terms of illegal drug use, today’s young people are also indulging less. For example, while 15% of 24-year-olds report having ever tried cocaine, nearly 29% of 50- to 54-year-olds have done so. So maybe the kids actually ARE all right.

The New York Times says the same thing in a piece titled “The Kids Are More Than All Right:” “Adolescent use of alcohol, tobacco and most illegal drugs is also far lower than it was 30 years ago. In 1980, about a third of 12th graders had smoked in the past month; today that number has dropped to fewer than 1 in 5. Teenage alcohol use has reached historic lows. In 1980, 72 percent of high-school seniors said they had recently consumed alcohol, compared with just 40 percent in 2011. In 1981, about 43 percent of 12th graders had tried an illegal drug other than pot; in 2011 that number fell to 25 percent. Today’s teenagers are also far less likely to have sex or get pregnant compared with their parent’s generation. In 1988, half of boys 15 to 17 had experienced sex; by 2010 that number fell to just 28 percent. The percentage of teenage girls having sex dropped to 27 percent from 37.2 percent, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

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