I’ll have two beers and a shot of Purell?
Kids are taking shots of hand sanitizer to get drunk. I am not sure if I could possibly make up a more catching first line for an article if I spent three weeks and multiple bottles of real alcohol trying. This past week, multiple news outlets ran stories on teenagers in Southern California getting drunk off hand sanitizer, some straight, and some after isolating the ethyl alcohol out of the solution.
I am struggling to decide how to work my way into this piece. Currently, I am trying to come to terms with the stunning desperation and stupidity of some people, while also attempting to figure out how to possibly remedy the situation; but my efforts to develop a solution are continually sidetracked by the mind numbing stupidity that doing something like this takes.
I am all for having a good time (that being said for anyone I may have offended on Pearl Street this past weekend I apologize and please do not press charges) but there is a difference between responsible partying and just being a complete and total idiot. Doing something like drinking hand sanitizer takes you past the complete idiot category and places you in the “if you ever have children, we as a people are most certainly doomed” category. If you are reading this and you have ever tried drinking hand sanitizer to get drunk, stop reading my article, just put the paper down; chances are you won’t understand most of the words that have more than four letters anyway.
This issue, I believe, creates a platform for an interesting and thought provoking debate: the drinking age in America and the way alcohol is treated in our schools and in our society as a whole.
Whether or not you believe that the drinking age should be lowered or raised, there is one thing that is undeniable: the way a good number of us are educated about alcohol is sub-par at best, and the results are demonstrated in enumerable ways on a fairly regular basis, and clearly manifest themselves in the phenomenon described earlier. Some of you may say, “well these are just stupid kids doing stupid kid things.” While there may be a level of truth to that, steps can be taken to limit the amount of dangerous “stupid kid stuff” that goes on.
I cannot and will not engage in a debate as to how parents should educate their kids about drinking as your parents will feel differently than mine and vice versa. However, I can propose a more progressive approach on the part of the primary and secondary educational system in our country. More progressive in that rather than stigmatizing alcohol, stopping just short of labeling it contraband in countless high school classrooms across this nation, we need to buck up and teach students the responsible way to deal with alcohol.
Burying our heads in the sand will do us no good. We tried prohibition and we all know how well that worked. We currently have a higher drinking age than any other nation in the Western world, and somehow we are the country where our youths are drinking hand sanitizer. Clearly we need a better system. A viable option has been presented by researchers at SUNY Potsdam. The main focus of the program is the education of teens, and the establishment of a licensing procedure that is contingent upon the completion of the educational part of the program.
The program, put forth by Dr. David J. Hanson would be:
“taught by a certified alcohol educator, trained specifically to cover the legal, ethical, health and safety issues of the curriculum and skilled in dealing with young adults; consist of at least 40 hours of instruction, with the most time spent in the classroom setting, supplemented by sessions of community involvement—DWI court hearings, safe ride taxi programs, community forums; require a partnership between home and school; entail a final examination that subjects must pass for licensing and provide accurate and unbiased alcohol education for both drinkers and abstainers.”
Furthermore, Dr. Hanson’s proposal turns discretion over to the states, and provides incentives for at least submitting a proposal that is aimed at lowering/maintaining fatality levels while lowering the drinking age.
This is the type of thinking we need to engage in. Presenting unbiased, honest information and education about alcohol and its consumption to our teens can only serve to help society as a whole. In high school I received CPR training, which is handy and great and all, but just from living my life I can tell you that I have come into contact with alcohol far more often than I have come across someone who needs CPR. So where is the money better spent? Where does the greater good and greater overall benefit derive from? Why are our schools not teaching teens how to act responsibly? This negligence leads to stupid, irrational and dangerous behavior such as drinking hand sanitizer.
We are in the position of being able to affect change. We are in the position where we can make a change, and see tangible results. Will a new alcohol curriculum totally eradicate instances such as this, of course it won’t. To do that, you would have to find a way to get rid of all the idiots in the world - good luck with that. But at least this would be a step in the right direction. This would be progress, and in a country that constantly prides itself in being number one, free thinking and freedom loving, it’s about time we engaged in free thought, exercised our freedoms and craft a world leading alcohol policy. To continue to do otherwise is shameful and increasingly dangerous.
Joe Alicata will be a senior at the University at Albany this fall, where he is studying public policy, philosophy and political science. Currently he is the opinions editor for the Albany Student Press, and will next year serve as the Editor in Chief. Additionally, Joe is the director of news for WCDB 90.9 FM, and host of “The Lowdown”. His interests include politics, philosophy, cooking, cars, weight lifting, and the occasional sunlit walk on the beach.