Dear Straight Talk: I think this friend, "Tamara", has a drinking problem. I realize she's not much different than 10 other people I know, but she strikes me as drinking, not just to have fun, but to numb out problems with her father, and other awkward things… like all the hookups who don’t call the next day. How do I bring this up without seeming like a not-much-fun friend? We do party together, but I know when to slow down or stop, versus getting wasted. Any ideas? Also, should I tell her parents? — Concerned Friend
Editor's Note: Many otherwise intelligent people think our colleges are filled with raging junior alcoholics because we are too strict at home about underage drinking and all that bottled-up repression around alcohol gets uncorked in college. These same people think that if we made alcohol part of meals and rituals, as is common in Europe, that our youth wouldn’t go so crazy when they hit the dorms. Actually, this is a false and dangerous rumor. The European Union has the highest rates of binge-drinking and alcoholism in the world, significantly higher on both counts than the U.S. Our column of SEP 28, 2011, covers this in detail.
It’s a simple fact that the younger someone is when they first get drunk, the more likely he or she will become alcoholic. Also, please note that periods of heavy youthful drinking are often followed by a period of sobriety before alcoholism returns. The only thing you repress by not letting kids drink before age 21 is alcoholism.
If you are considering allowing a New Year’s party for underage guests in your home, please, just say no! Not only is it completely irresponsible to directly or indirectly provide alcohol to minors as I’ve just noted — it is also illegal. If someone is hurt or killed, you can go to jail or lose your home. —Lauren
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