Less feeling, more wasted.
According to the CDC, http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/alcoholdrug/index.htm, “Alcohol use and binge drinking among our nation’s youth is a major public health problem.” [To wit:]
- Alcohol is used by more young people in the United States than tobacco or illicit drugs.
- Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with approximately 75,000 deaths per year.
- Alcohol is a factor in approximately 41% of all deaths from motor vehicle crashes.
- Among youth, the use of alcohol and other drugs has been linked to unintentional injuries, physical fights, academic and occupational problems, and illegal behavior.
- Long-term alcohol misuse is associated with liver disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurological damage as well as psychiatric problems such as depression, anxiety, and antisocial personality disorder.
- Drug use contributes directly and indirectly to the HIV epidemic, and alcohol and drug use contribute markedly to infant morbidity and mortality.
To those in fields such as health, education, law enforcement, and just about anyone else who possesses a modicum of awareness, this isn’t, or at least shouldn’t be, news. But are we really doing anything about it, other than wringing our hands? What’s the role of our institutions, and do popular media, TV, movies, music videos and in particular, marketing, help as much or more than they hurt? What do makers and sellers of alcoholic and other psychoactive products add to, or subtract from, these issues?
As an impressionable teenager in the 1960′s I couldn’t wait to start drinking, legally or otherwise, and advertisements for products containing alcohol were, by today’s standards, subdued. We’re talking black & white TV and billboards touting the benefits of Burma Shave! To be sure, there were admonishments from some elders regarding the pitfalls, but they were no match for other, seemingly more relevant and certainly more exciting, influences. Yes, we weren’t as broadly aware then about the multitudinous health risks associated with alcohol/drug use, but that goes to my point, that the problem hasn’t diminished and may actually be worse.
Are libertarians right: Substance abuse, indeed any essentially behavioral issue, is the problem of the those involved and we have no collective responsibilities, e.g. legislatively, to meddle, or attempt to engineer corrective solutions, even when those affected are too young or otherwise ill-equipped to deal effectively with the issues? Is it really ok to treat these issues only as Big Picture Items and nevermind the noisome details, alcoholic children for example, and let the marketplace work it out? After all, producers of products that have potential for misuse logically find it in their best interest to warn users against pitfalls - Or is this just clever marketing and a thinly veiled means of indemnifying themselves against the inevitable?
Just how involved should we be, beyond our everyday lives and collectively speaking, in the lives of those outside the fence, not just on the aforementioned issues but generally speaking? Are we not all in this thing together? For the duration? Do we not all suffer, or more hopefully, celebrate the same fate? Well?