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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra.
Why does binge drinking continue to resist bans?
Some teenagers and young people of today, for example the protagonists of the Historias del Kronen by José A. Mañas, may believe that the patent for the invention of the "botellón" belongs to them. They ignore that many thousands of years ago the bottle was made with mead, which was distilled honey fermented with alcohol. The prehistoric people used to make demijohns without knowing it, as it happened to the famous character of Moliere's comedy with prose. This is how "hakes" were fished in the Paleolithic era. At that time, the "squatters" gave up the warmth of the cave to drink in the open air, as we know from archaeological remains. It is also known that young Greeks used to go drinking in the cima of Mount Parnassus.
It follows that genuine binge drinking requires alcohol and open air. That is why it is very debatable what the teenagers of today claim in their favor: that they drink in public because it is cheaper for them.
Drunkenness is not the fault of alcohol, but of not knowing how to drink and using it as a refuge or to "get high" as soon as possible to get uninhibited and have fun. Chesterton, advised "drink because you are happy, but never because you are unhappy!".
We already have a first answer to the question of why binge drinking resists prohibitions. It is not a problem that is solved by prohibiting, but by educating. Prohibitions tend to stimulate it, especially in the stage of rebellion, adolescence.
For adolescents to continue to do it on the sly is an added incentive, a challenge and a feat that would denote ingenuity and bravery. It is now one of the new rites of passage into adulthood, more enjoyable and less dangerous than hunting a lion without weapons, as was the case in primitive villages of subject Samoa.
Why have measures based on the mere prohibition adopted by the government and municipalities failed so far? Because they criminalized teenagers without listening to them and without the partnership of their natural leaders. I think that some young people around 25 years old can influence teenagers for good more than some adults. The only thing that we older people tend to attribute to the botellón is the nuisance it causes to the neighbors, especially the noise that prevents them from sleeping and the dirt and bad smells that are left near their houses. Certainly, it is a reprehensible uncivic behavior that threatens health, but there must be something else when it has always existed and continues to exist unstoppably, despite the anti-botellón laws and fines.
A good initiative was that of the Autonomous Community of Extremadura, which passed a "Law of Coexistence and Leisure" in 2003. The aim was not to persecute the "botellón", but to regulate it, avoiding the usual excesses. Another similar initiative was that of the City Council of Cordoba in 2005. It consisted of the creation of specific spaces known as "botellómetros". It made it possible to avoid inconvenience to neighbors and to provide hygiene and sanitation elements, such as sufficient public urinals and garbage containers. This approach was imitated by other municipalities.
Why does binge drinking "hook" so easily, not everyone, but most adolescents (between 12 and 17 years of age)? How do they tend to enter this world? Teenagers need to meeting with their peers, and among them there is usually someone with experience in the topic; they are eager to try new sensations; they do not see the risk; they are especially vulnerable and impressionable; they yield to the pressure of group of peers and / or friends.
I believe that the best instrument to put an end to binge drinking is the preventive Education . It implies educating for authentic leisure (very different from idleness); educating for coexistence, civility, self-control and self-discipline, both in the family and at school. It also includes learning to have fun in a healthy way. Given the apparent lack of alternatives to drinking, I suggest some that are helping many teenagers: physical exercise and sports at any time: if it is during the day they will be tired at night, but there are also gyms open until very late; meet with friends and / or friends at the home of one of them to talk, listen to music or participate in common video games. In exceptional social situations, such as the current Covid-19 pandemic, a ban accompanied by sanctions is necessary, invoking a value that adolescents and young people understand very well: solidarity.