191446 Amethyst initiative vs. animal house: What college presidents can learn from research on the Mediterranean drinking style

Tuesday, October 28, 2008: 10:50 AM

Thomas Babor, PhD , Dept of Community Medicine and Health Care, University of Connecticut, Farmington, CT
Animal House is the name of a 1978 movie celebrating the excesses of binge drinking by college students. The Amethyst Initiative is an effort by college presidents to prevent binge drinking on their campuses by lowering the legal alcohol purchase age to 18 combined with education-based policies that encourage adoption of the Mediterranean drinking style, a pattern of alcohol use characterized by moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages like wine, mostly during meals. This presentation reviews epidemiological data and policy research relevant to the emergence of binge drinking cultures in countries where the Mediterranean drinking style was once considered dominant. The public health implications of the European countries' diverse drinking cultures and lower legal drinking age limits are discussed in the context of binge drinking by American youth. Population surveys of adolescent drinking trends in the US, Canada and the European countries suggest that youthful binge drinking is as prevalent in the Mediterranean countries as in the US, and much more prevalent in countries with a lower alcohol purchase age. A natural experiment derived from alcohol policy changes in the United Kingdom indicates that excessive drinking rather than moderation results from relaxed controls on alcohol availability. An international review of scientific support for 32 alcohol policy options shows that controls on alcohol availability, such as the minimum legal drinking age, are among the most effective youth prevention policies, whereas institution-based alcohol education programs are rated least effective. Implications for the Amethyst Initiative are discussed.

Learning Objectives:
The higher prevalence and harms in many European countries with lower MLDA. The extent to which the Mediterranean drinking style is relevant to the prevention of binge drinking. The relative effectiveness of different alcohol policies on youth drinking behavior.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Years of research on international alcohol policy issues.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.