Drinking, in relation to children's early exposure is seen as a far more desirable and beneficial contribution to a good lifestyle than drugs. At least, in most cases, it is. The children in a household where drinking is confined to appropriate levels will see alcohol as a quality enhancement to life, rather than a vice or something that leads to personal disaster.
The children of alcoholics will see drinking in a different way. They will relate most of the horrors and troubles in life to drinking as they see their decent, normal parents devolving into something else entirely with each and every drink. Later, they may see themselves becoming like their parents despite their best efforts, but the addictive qualities of alcohol make it impossible to say no without serious help.
Alcohol produces a rapid elevation in mood with very little cost or quantity required to get to that elevated mood. For young people, this means that alcohol comes with cheap and easy access, opportunity and many forms of social acceptance. As a result, addiction can happen quickly, can become profound within a short period of time, and can continue through life, thanks to the ease of getting hold of an alcoholic substance that does not have to cost a lot.
It is amazing to hear that another first semester college student has died from binge or blackout drinking, given the programs and exposure of such cases. Something motivates these young people toward excessive drinking early on in the college experience.
There are peer pressures, the desire to fit in and the ease of getting hold of alcohol in a college environment. And then there is the alcohol, itself which zaps the ability to make sound judgments and dims the mind. Add in the drinking games, the competitions to see who can drink the most in the shortest period of time and the fortified drinks themselves and the ingestion of too much alcohol can happens far too easily.
Celebrities who abuse alcohol are seen as role models of coolness. They are the rebellious bad boys and girls that young people always idolize. When those same celebrities get older and lose their youthful good looks, they are seen as the opposite: terrible examples of humanity and worse. Ironically, it is an adulthood spent in excessive drinking that accelerates the loss of good looks.
Finally, the stresses, depressions, mood swings, fears and frustrations of adolescent life these days becomes aggravated by the economy, homes that are in turmoil from lost jobs and foreclosures and the rise in crimes and social predation that goes on in and out of school. Having a readily obtainable mood altering substance when there is such emotional turmoil will surely lead to temporary releases and escapes that become more and more a part of a young person's life. Eventually the person does not care about school or the future more than they care about escaping reality or getting temporary lifts for their mood.
In summary, there are many incentives, easy opportunities, pressures and accesses that make alcohol one of the most important gateway drugs available today mainly because it can be relatively cheap and far more available to young people.