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Drinking Age Essay

The drinking age was moved from 18 to 21 for a reason. The higher drinking age of 21 has saved many lives, helped reduce the amount of underage drinking, and therefore should not be lowered. Many studies from a large variety of sources have proven higher drinking ages have a positive effect on society. Alcohol is harmful to the development of younger people. Research has shown that an adult is less likely to binge drink (have five or more drinks in a row). According to statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, teens become intoxicated twice as fast as adults. Because the teens get drunk faster they are less likely to know when to stop and to go past their limit, causing harm to themselves and others. The Human brain continues to develop after adolescence and into our 20’s. According to a study on the neurocognitive effects of alcohol on adolescents and college students, drinking is harmful to the brain. Since the brains of all people under 21 are still developing, and most are in college, alcohol can prove very detrimental to the development of their brain and can harm their studies, and thus their futures. Underage drinking also largely contributes to many social problems include those such as: impaired driving, fighting, sexual activity, and smoking (Pediatrics 2006; 119:76-85). People have proposed that a 40 hour educational course should entitle people under 21 to drink.

Research shows that educating youth drivers does not prevent youth crashes, however restrictions such as a limitation on the amount of passengers a youth driver can have, and curfews do help restrict the amount of youth crashes. The same philosophy applies to drinking. Educating young people about drinking responsibly, and the damage that drinking can do will not prevent alcohol related incidents, or underage “binge” drinking, but restrictions like the current laws will help prevent these (National Institutes of Health , “Fact Sheet: Underage Drinking”). Alcohol has a direct effect on the amount of car crashes and crime levels around the world. Studies show that since the legal age was change from 18 to 21 the number of vehicle related accidents has dropped 16 percent (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Other studies have shown that since the legal drinking age was raised over 25,000 live were saved (European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs).

Many European countries have lower drinking ages, and many people say that their system is better. Since alcohol is more readily available in these nations there are more underage drinkers than other countries where alcohol is more limited. Studies have also shown that alcohol cause more problems in Europe than America (DiClemente, Ralph J.:Pediatrics 107). These issues include underage drunkenness, injury, rape, and school problems. “The concept that a person becomes a full adult at age 21 dates back centuries in English common law; 21 was the age at which a person could, among other things, vote and become a knight. Since a person was an official adult at age 21, it seemed to make sense that they could drink then, too” (Ethan Trex: http://www.mentalfloss.com /article/19437/why-drinking-age-21). Certain European nations and states allow drinking with a parent’s consent or drinking in the privacy of the home. Many people claim that this helps reduce underage binge drinking by introducing youths to alcohol at an earlier age in a controlled environment.

Research has shown that this is not true (Fell, James: Debating Reform), because the youths feel they have their parent’s permission to drink they are more likely to believe it is okay for them to drink in situations outside the home, which can lead to intoxicated driving, and other harmful acts. Some argument for lowering the drinking age claim that alcohol is more enticing to youths when they can’t have it, and if the legal age was lowered there would be less underage drinking problems. Studies and history have proven this wrong (Fell, James: Debating Reform). Before the drinking age was raised in the U.S. there was a larger underage drinking problem, and over twice as many fatal alcohol related accidents as today.

European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs. DiClemente, Ralph J. et al “Parental Monitoring: Association With
Adolescents’ Risk Behaviors” Pediatrics 107: 6 June 2001, 1363-1368 Fell, James. From “Chapter 2: Federalism: Resolved, the Federal Government should restore each State’s freedom to set its drinking age.” in Ellis, Richard and Nelson, Michael (eds.) Debating Reform. CQPress Publishers, Fall 2009. Fell, J.; “Minimum Legal Drinking Age Policy Knowledge Asset,” website created by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Substance Abuse Policy Research Program; March 2009. Fell, James C. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Oct. 2008 “An Examination of the Criticisms of the Minimum Legal Drinking Age 21 Laws in the United States from a Traffic-Safety Perspective” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Center for Statistics and Analysis “Lives Saved in 2007 by Restraint Use and Minimum Drinking Age Laws” DOT HS 811 049 A Brief Statistical Summary November 2008. National Institutes of Health, “Fact Sheet: Underage Drinking” National Institutes of Health, “Fact Sheet: Alcohol-related Traffic Deaths” National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Statistics on Underage Drinking National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “Research Findings on Underage Drinking and the Minimum Legal Drinking Age” National Institutes of Health, Alcohol Policy Information System “The 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act” Shults, Ruth A., Elder, Randy W., Sleet, David A., Nichols, James L., Alao, Mary O. Carande-Kulis, Vilma G., Zaza, Stephanie, Sosin, Daniel M., Thompson, Robert S., and the Task Force on Community Preventive Services. “Reviews of Evidence Regarding Interventions to Reduce Alcohol-Impaired Driving.” Am J Prev Med 2001;21(4S). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking 2007. Zeigler DW, Wang CC, Yoast RA, Dickinson BD, Mccaffree MA, Robinowitz CB, et al. The Neurocognitive Effects of Alcohol on Adolescents and College Students. Prev Med 2005 Jan;40(1):23-32. http://www.indiana.edu/~engs/articles/cqoped.html

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