Please Stop, High School Drinkers

Graphic by Neloise Egipto '13.

Lately, I haven’t liked what I’ve been seeing on Facebook.

I inevitably find in my newsfeed pictures of drunken classmates holding a can of Keystone Light in one hand and a can of Four Loko in the other.

Frankly, it’s horrifying.

I’m not entirely sure why so many kids my age choose to drink excessively—or at all, for that matter. This isn’t to say that I think that we should wait to taste alcohol until we’re 21 (I’ve had a few sips of wine and champagne at family celebrations myself), but I find it disgraceful that some teenagers decide to get completely wasted weekend after weekend.

The most absurd Facebook photos are the ones where teenagers think they’re masking the fact that they’re drinking alcohol, as if it’s extremely difficult to see the 17 bottles of vodka and innumerable shot glasses amidst the three bottles of Gatorade.

I’ve made a personal decision not to drink outside of my parents’ consent, simple as that.

When you finish laughing and judging me as a goody-two-shoes, you might as well find out why.

First of all, um, it’s illegal. The legal age of alcohol consumption in America is 21. No student at Staples is 21 or over. I understand the teenage urge for rebellion and resistance of the law, but it’s really astounding to me how many kids disregard the illegality of this act.

Secondly, the teenage brain is still developing. I know we like to think that we’re adults already, but while some kids seem to have achieved a high maturity level, ultimately, we’re still growing physiologically.

In a recent study conducted by neuroscientist Susan Tapert of the University of California, San Diego, in which Tapert compared the brain scans of teenagers who drink heavily with scans of those who don’t, it was found that binge drinkers did worse on thinking and memory tests than the ones who did not drink. Regardless of what teenagers may think, our bodies and minds are developing, and drinking during this critical time can have a lifelong impact.

Thirdly, getting drunk lowers inhibitions and causes teenagers to do things they wouldn’t ever consider doing sober. Drinking causes poor judgment, and often reckless choices are made—one of the most notable being the decision to drink and drive.

According to Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), an organization dedicated to preventing destructive decisions by teenagers, “motor vehicle crashes remain the number one cause of death among youth ages 15-20.” It’s a truly tragic statistic—one that we seriously need to recognize and commit to changing.

In the community where I lived before moving to Westport—a town not unlike Westport in size and affluence—teen deaths caused by drinking and driving happened at least once every year. My very last night in that Rhode Island town, there was a fatal boating accident in the river by my house involving a group of intoxicated high school guys. The kid driving the boat ran right over his friend, killing him instantly. It’s a haunting memory that will stay with me forever.

Some argue that teenagers should be allowed to drink because they need to relieve stress, or because it’s ultra-difficult not to succumb to peer pressure.

Okay, are you kidding? I would be thrown out of my house if I was going around saying “I’m really stressed out, so I’m gonna go chug some beers!” I mean, really? I am stressed, and I know a lot of my fellow classmates are too, but to rely on alcohol as a stress reliever is honestly just plain stupid. Teens shouldn’t have to turn to alcohol to relieve their stress. Instead, teenagers can find their outlet, whether it’s playing a sport, painting, reading, writing, listening to music, or whatever works for them. I’m 100 percent certain everyone can find something besides drinking to help relieve their stress.

I truly think we could end the dangerous coercion of peer pressure if we simply curbed teenage drinking. Can’t get pressured into it if no one’s doing it in the first place, right?

If we as teens took some initiative and showed some restraint, perhaps we could be the generation that puts a stop to this epidemic.