Today's Chicago Tribune headlines its Health & Family section with an article about teen drinking. The federal Centers for Disease Control did a survey which supposedly "indicates that youths who start drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life."
I know it's politically correct to believe in alcoholism as a disease. Mental illness is also, of course, a disease or a bunch of diseases. One "develops" such diseases just like cancer or the measles.
That's how we're supposed to think, otherwise we might tend to blame somebody instead of curing them. God forbid any one of us should ever impose any idiosyncratic morality on anyone else, or judge anyone on any standard which is not explicitly and expertly medical....
And of course, modern medicine could eventually cure every human problem if we mere mortals will just pay enough taxes, and subordinate our inferior lay judgment for those superior understandings of the proclaimed experts about what's best for us.
On the other hand, maybe not.
Another article, this one in the Chicago SunTimes on the same day, features psychologist E. Scott Geller of Virginia Tech's Center for Applied Behavioral Systems. Geller's research doesn't seem to show that kids just inadvertantly catch the disease of drinking too much. His conclusion is more like, well, they get drunk on purpose because they like it.
Education toward "alcohol awareness" has proven useless in efforts over thirty years. When researchers took breathalyzers to college parties and bars to show students their blood alcohol content, it actually encouraged them to drink more.
What a surprise. But perhaps only to those who delude themselves with this fantasy of medical cures for any and all socially problematic or disagreeable behavior.
The rest of us know stupid and bad when we see it, not to mention free and responsible. We resort to time-honored moral constraints like blame, shame and regret, which actually work better than psychiatry.