The Debate Around The Right Drinking Age In America

Categories: Underage Drinking

Should the legal drinking age be lowered, raised, or left where it is? There are so many different arguments to each one. Along with it, each one argument has plenty of points to their advantage. The United States drinking age is 21, but many people would like to see this changed to the age of 18. There is also plenty of people that support keeping the drinking age where it is now, but the fewest amount of people want to see it raised.

Most people do not want to see the legal age raised.

The drinking age was not twenty-one until the 1984 Minimum Legal Drinking Age Act was passed. It eventually led to each state being forced to change their minimum drinking age to twenty-one. Morris E. Chafetz voted for the 1984 Minimum Legal Drinking Age Act, he said, “voted for it; it does not work.” Later, he also said, “it is the single most regrettable decision of my entire professional career.” There is so many points to argue towards lowering the drinking age to 18 years old.

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First things first, one of the biggest arguments for lower the drinking age is just the fact that people are considered a legal adult once they reach the age of eighteen. They are then allowed to vote for government positions but are still not allowed to legally have a drink at the bar. Also, once someone reaches the age of 18 they are required to register for the draft. Along with it, everyone can join the military and go overseas.

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People who go overseas are able to drink, because most other countries do not have as high of a legal drinking age. There are one hundred-ninety countries in the world, in which the United States is one of eleven countries to have a minimum drinking age of twenty-one. Sixty-one percent of the world’s countries have a minimum drinking age of eighteen or nineteen, while the highest minimum drinking age would be India with the age of twenty-five. Almost forty years ago, military personal were allowed to drink alcohol on any base in the United States. This was regardless of what the state laws said, the military personal was still allowed to drink. In the 1980’s Congress passed a law that stated that to drink on a military base based on what the state’s minimum drinking age is. Outside of the United States, eighteen-twenty-year-old can drink on military bases unless there is specific instructions from the country forbidding it. Overall, why let someone be able to join the military and yet still not be allowed to drink.

When teens turn sixteen in the United States they start to drive. Parents teach their teens how to drive correctly and responsibly. There is a minimum six-month period when they will just have a permit so that way they can get use to drinking. Who says that it is not possible to do the same with alcohol. Even if not that, having it be introduced to teens through their parents would make such a difference. If someone was to try alcohol for the first at a party in college, they are likely to be peer pressured into drinking way more they can handle. However, if introduced by their parents and shown how to drink responsibly would make it less likely for these teens to drink excessively. Along with it, they could be taught the effects of binge drinking, driving under the influence, and many other problems that come from drinking irresponsibly. Similar to the AA program for people who have drinking problems, there should be a program that practices safe drinking to everyone. None of this would be possible if the drinking age would to be at the age of twenty-one. Going by the 2010 National Survey on Drug use and Health, driving under the influence was associated by age. The twenty-one to twenty-five-year-old age group had the highest number of drunk driving incidents at 23.4%. This number could easily be lowered if there were to be a program to introduced alcohol to these teens. However, the percentage of drunk driving incidents among eighteen to twenty-year-old group was 15.1%. Just like the higher age, this could easily be lowered if there was program to introduce alcohol to them. If the program were to start will twenty-one-year-old, it would not be as effective. Most teens will start drinking while they are still in high school. The programs would need to be able to reach out to these teens as well even if it meant that it is being taught to sixteen-year-olds before they go and try alcohol on their own with no actual knowledge of how it affects themselves. Giving these teens a program would really benefit not just for them put everyone else as well, and if the program were to be teaching these teens at a young age then the drinking should be lowered along with it.

Why do people have the age urge to start drinking at young ages when the law says that it is not allowed until the age of twenty-one. Many teens start simply by peer pressure. They see one person doing it, so they want to try it as well. These teens may go to a party and see their friends playing drinking games and get invited to play as well. This could easily lead to these teens to get intoxicated. Sometimes after one experience of being intoxicated at a party, they enjoy so much that they want to try it again. For some teens in high school it is regular for them to go drinking with their friends every weekend and sometimes even during the week days. This may lead to many bad things upon them in their schooling and social life. Parents will often times drink in front of their children and seeing someone that they look up to drinking and having a good time. Social media plays a huge part in making teens want to drink as well. There are plenty of movies out there that show underage drinking, but they make it look fun. They never show the dangerous part of drinking under the influence. Some teens are just unhappy and look for an escape from reality, so drinking is how they get away from reality. Teens may also drink underage for the same fact of why many adults smoke, to relieve stress. Taking tests, bullying, and pressure to excel in school can cause major stress to a teen. Some parents want their teens to do great in school and nothing, which can be a hard standard to live by. These teens feel the stress coming down from their parents to make sure that they do well in school. The stress may not be just from striving for good grades, but sports and academic groups as well. Just like pushing their teens to get good grades, many parents push their teens to due well in sports. Some parents do this to hope that their children can get a scholarship to a college, but this puts even more stress on their teens. Just like some parents push their teens to do sports, some push them to be part in as many academic groups as possible. Now just like being a part of a sports team this can bring loads of stress. Another reason that teens drink due to stress is simply bullying. Bullying is a huge problem in schools, but it will bring tremendous amounts of stress upon the teens being bullied. These are all causes that might lead a teen to underage drinking and possibly even worse things.

Driving under the influence is one of the biggest, if not the biggest problem associated with alcohol. So many teens will go to a party and try to drive home intoxicated. No teen wants to go to a party and be a designated driver. They all want to go to these party and get drunk with all their friends. Most teens do not have the maturity to know the level of harm that could come from this. Teens ages from 12-20 account for more than 10% if the country’s alcohol consumption according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). This just shows that a lot of teens will drink alcohol illegally regardless of what the drinking age is. Going by the 2010 National Survey on Drug use and Health, the percentage of drunk driving incidents associated with the age group of sixteen to twenty-year-old is 20.9%. The big question is even if the drinking age was lowered would it even affect the number of drunk driving incident. The July 1988, the minimum drinking age has been twenty-one is all fifty states in the United States. There are surveys that have tracked alcohol consumption among teens and young adults, and have found that drinking has declined since the late 1970’s. Next to all studies that were specifically gauge to the effects of drinking age changes will show that a minimum drinking age of twenty-one will reduce drinking, drinking and driving, problematic drinking, and alcohol-related crashes among teens and young adults. Even though many teens will still drink underage alcohol remains as an risk factor in crashes of young drivers. Having a alcohol education program to issue licenses to drink upon completing the course have gain national attention, there is no actual evidence that it will replace the effect of a minimum drinking age of twenty-one.

Parents can be a major factor in stopping underage drinking and driving under the influence. A simple way for parents to help this would be too, is to simply not have any alcohol in their home. If that is not possible then having it locked up and keeping a count of the alcohol would work as well. Just parents being able to talk to their children about alcohol and what it is like provides tremendous help. Letting their children know that they will always be there regardless of their children’s decision can have a huge effect on them. If parents were to be more open to their teens about alcohol it would play a huge effect on them trying to underage drink and drive under the influence.

Many people over the United State do not see lowering the drinking age as a good thing. Many people claim that it will only make for more drinking related incidents and this could very easily be true. It would make it significantly easily for younger teens to be able to have access to alcohol. For example, it is less likely for a fourteen-year-old to have someone that is willing to buy them alcohol that is of the legal age, than a fourteen-year-old that knows a eighteen year old willing to get them alcohol. Along with it, a twenty-one-year-old should be more mature than a eighteen year old and know better than to give someone underage alcohol. Most teens are friends with other teens around their age, typically within three years of their own age. So as previously said, it will be much easier for teens to get access to alcohol if the minimum drinking age was lowered. Some teens regardless of what the minimum drinking age is will still have access to alcohol. There is not much to be done about that, unless the minimum drinking age law was enforced better. Having the drinking age lower would also make it possible for some high school students to go into bars. Many older people use the bars as their getaway from reality and having eighteens year old’s there, they could easily become addicted to drinking.

Getting addicted to alcohol could very easily lead to major and minor health problems for teens. Teens exposing their brain to alcohol during these times may cause problems of their brain development and possibly leading to mild cognitive impairment as well as to further escalation of drinking. Underage drinking may cause learning impairments that could affect academic and occupational goals these teens are trying to achieve. In a study done by Brown and colleagues, they proved that teens that drink alcohol have greater difficulty remembering words and simple geometric designs after a ten-minute interval. With this study and similar studies, memory problems were the most common among teens who had been drinking alcohol. During science testing using imaging techniques revealed a structural difference in the brains of adolescent teens who drink alcohol. Teens in which began drinking at an earlier age are four times more likely to develop drinking problems at some time in their life times than those who do not start drinking until the age of twenty-one. It is unclear whether drinking at an early age causes alcoholism or whether it simply shows an existing vulnerability to alcohol use disorders. As an example, early alcoholism and drinking have been linked with personality characteristics such as tendencies to seek out new experiences and sensations, along with the urge to act impulsively. They have even found that some evidence suggests that genetics may be a factor in the relationship between underage drinking and alcoholism.

Having too much alcohol occasionally, may not cause a terrible problem but have yet a slight chance of causing one. Too much alcohol may harm the body both physically and mentally in different ways. Some health problems that can be obtained by drinking too much are liver damage, heart disease, anemia, brain and nervous system problems, and plenty more. The problem is that drinking at a younger age makes it a higher chance of obtaining any of these diseases. When teens drink an excessive amount of alcohol, their bodies have more problems than a typical adult would when it comes to their liver trying to flush it out of their body. The alcohol will kill liver cells, which can lead to cirrhosis. It is also possible to obtain fatty liver disease, a disease that means their liver does not work like it should. Drinking may also lead to an increase in chance of blood clots and higher levels of fats and cholesterol in the body. Along with it there is also a higher chance of dying from heart disease. Alcohol also affects the brains communication pathways. This will make it hard for the body to go through the thinking process and speak clearly. Also affects the ability to remember things, make decisions, and move the body. Alcohol may also cause depression and nerve damage that can affect the body even after the body is sober. Anemia is what happens when the body does not make enough red blood cells. This can lead to inflammation, ulcers, and other problems. Too much alcohol will make it a higher chance of having this disease. There is also a link between alcohol abuse and cancer. Alcohol increases the chance of cancer in the liver, breast, and intestines. It also helps cancer-causing chemicals enter the body’s cells more easily. The use of alcohol in the long-term may raise the chance for seizures and epilepsy. Gout is a form of arthritis in which is a result of a buildup of uric acid in the joints. Drinking too much alcohol is one of the main causes of this disease. Drinking may also affect the body’s immune cells. The immune cells is what helps the body fight off viruses. Drinking to much may cause digestive problems as well. It may cause nausea and heartburn. Over time it may cause ulcers and chronic inflammation in the esophagus, gut, and stomach. It may lead to a disease called pancreatitis, or even an inflamed pancreas. Both of these may affect how much insulin the body makes, putting the body at a higher risk of obtaining diabetes. Alcohol may also cause numerous sleep problems. It may make it harder to fall asleep and let alone be able to stay asleep. All of these diseases are good reason for the drinking age to stay at the age of twenty-one. It will make sure that the people that are more mature and are more likely to know the effects of drinking to much alcohol may be.

All in all, the argument of what the minimum drinking age should be is stay a matter of debate. There are so many valid points towards each side but keeping the drinking age at twenty-one shows more physical evidence for its point. However, due to the fact the drinking age has not been eighteen since 1984 it is hard to compare research on the effects of having a lower minimum drinking age. Either way it depends on the person on what they believe is the correct choice.

Updated: Feb 22, 2024
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The Debate Around The Right Drinking Age In America. (2024, Feb 13). Retrieved from

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