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Study: Lowering Drinking Age Would Not Reduce On-Campus Bingeing

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New research suggests lowering the drinking age would not reduce on-campus bingeing, ScienceDaily reported Dec. 12.

As part of a coalition known as the Amethyst Initiative, high-ranking administrators from 135 US colleges and universities have been asking policymakers to lower the drinking age in an effort to reduce binge drinking on campus. According to the initiative, students would learn to drink more responsibly if they could consume alcohol in public establishments where moderate social drinking is modeled.

Researchers from several institutions collaborated to develop a mathematical model that could predict patterns of on-campus consumption if the drinking age were reduced to test the theory.

Campuses near drinking establishments with low enforcement of underage drinking laws (i.e., those that do not check IDs frequently), or those in which students grossly overestimated the amount that constitutes “normal” drinking by peers, might see a reduction in on-campus bingeing. However, binge drinking could increase on campuses with no or low “misperception levels” present, according to the study.

Since there was no evidence that high misperceptions of peer drinking are the norm, it was highly unlikely that lowering the drinking age would reduce student binge drinking, said Jawail Rasul, Ph.D., a researcher at BioMedware Corporation in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and lead author of the study.

An additional risk to consider, said the authors, is that alcohol-related problems, such as driving under the influence, tend to go up when alcohol is more readily available to young adults.

The study was published in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

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