At least 40 years ago, Kansas University experts such as the late Dr. Raymond Schwegler stressed that for every emergency caused by a student using illegal drugs, there were 14 or 15 more because of the intake of alcohol.
Clearly, that hasn't changed.
"We talk often about the various 'drugs', such as LSD, and the negative impact they can make on our society, but we overlook the fact that alcohol is just as much a 'drug' and is far more invasive and abused than anything else, because it is so easily accessible," Schwegler told a Journal-World staff member.
There have been a spate of articles recently about whether to lower the legal drinking age from 21 to 18, and proponents in both camps make some convincing arguments. But whatever the age limit, we are reminded that for all the fears about cocaine, heroin, crack and other illegal substances, alcohol remains the No. 1 problem "drug" in America. Abuse of alcohol by young people only reinforces the need to alter the scene.
Sharon Jayson of USA Today recently wrote an article that began: "College students today celebrate 21st birthdays with an average of 12 drinks for men and nine for women, (according to) the most in-depth picture yet of the consequence of extreme partying. The University of Texas research found 78 percent of students cited ill effects, including hangovers (54 percent). Of the 44 percent who had blackouts 22 percent found out later they had sex, and 22 percent got into fight or argument. And 39 percent didn't know how they got home."
Terribly frightening is the admission by subjects in the Texas survey that 40 percent of them admitted driving after drinking in the past three months. That percentage is on the increase and we are aware of its impact because of some tragic accidents in the Lawrence area.
We always get back to whether the drinking age should be 18 or 21. Recently, a number of college and university leaders have endorsed the idea of lowering the drinking age to 18, a move they hope would decrease abusive drinking among students. To its credit, Kansas University has decided not to jump on the bandwagon, at least for now.
On that subject, psychology professor Kim Fromme who directed the Texas study says: "If we're talking about drinking and driving, dropping the age is a bad idea. If we're talking about decreasing the alcohol consumed by occasion, we're less certain."
Disaster? It's always on the table staring at drinkers, regardless of their age or the amount of alcohol involved. It takes only one drink too many to kill or maim. What is that limit?
We are so accustomed to alcoholic beverages being easily available, we sometimes forget the devastating problem they can pose. It's important to remember that even though it is legal, alcohol remains the No. 1 "drug" in America.