Drunk With Stress

Will Slater   High schools around the country struggle to protect kids from becoming a part of a systemic drinking culture. It’s hard to know how many Latin kids drink, and among those who do, it’s equally difficult to know the frequency of their drinking. For those who do, though, it’s worth trying to understand this choice and its implications. Part of the desire can probably be attributed to simple teenage brain development. Growing up is about experimentation and pushing boundaries, and for different people this stage manifests itself in different ways. For some, the obvious choice becomes going to parties and getting drunk. In any objective measure of pop culture, drinking is portrayed as a normal part of being a teenager. As many colleges and some high schools have noticed, though, there’s more to youth drinking than simply pushing limits. It’s one thing to be young and irresponsible, but it’s another situation entirely to drink to escape stress. We are at a turbulent age in an anxious time. From freshmen to senior year, it seems that every stage of a high school career exists only as stepping stone to the next stage, creating a ceaseless cycle of work and pressure. Helpless, kids are pushed and pulled by test scores, grades, and most of all the delusion that any of it determines individual worth. Stress is exhausting, and it’s not hard to see why kids would turn to drinking as a way to decompress. Drinking at Latin, in whatever capacity it actually exists, can thus be described as both a natural, typical behavior and an unnatural, forced response. So where does that leave us? We have kids who on principle won’t drink and kids who can’t be stopped from drinking. We have parents who worry about their child’s safety every weekend, all the while forcing their kids out of the house with constant pressure and nagging. Indifferent to all of this, alcohol remains dangerous, not to mention illegal. It’s no coincidence that when drinking is involved, the chances of car accidents, suicide, personal injury, and most prevalently, sexual assault, skyrocket. In the teenage mind, the legality and health risks of drinking may be irrelevant, but the well-being of friends can’t be thought of the same way. Around the country each Friday and Saturday night, how many honor students will no longer be able to speak in coherent sentences? How many polite, shy kids will get in drunken fights? How many young people will be raped or killed at the wheel? Some of these questions can be answered by a Google search, but some remain troublingly unknown. Latin students can get caught in an ironic position, trying to look old, but only knowing how to be young. In our youth, we’re vulnerable and face endless conflicts, some real and some imagined. The methods we use to cope with this vulnerability can be defining and life-changing. Inescapably, then, drinking is more than just a way to blow off steam. ]]>