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Lowering The Drinking Age to Prevent Underage Drinking

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Background

The legal age limit for drinking has been a matter of debate over the years that focuses on determining the right age for responsible drinking behavior considering its high addiction rates. All 50 US states now have their Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) set to 21, a standard higher than that in most developed countries, which is 18, with a few exceptions such as Japan and South Korea. However, the drinking age has not always been at 21. It has undergone many revisions over the years, influenced by political events, legislation, and societal groups such as religion institutions. When the 26th Amendment was passed, the lowered legal voting age from 21 to 18, 30 states arose the debate on the responsibility of persons which saw states change the MLDA to 18, 19, or 20. The new changes in MLDA, however, were questioned after car accidents reports in the 1970’s increased eventually led to Congress passing the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 that influenced the of the MLDA to 21.

The changes of MLDA had not been an effective strategy in curbing harmful drinking behaviors which prompts recommendation on the revision of MLDA to a lower limit. The raise of MLDA limit has pushed teens to drinking in dangerous environments without mature adult help. Increased debate in favor of lowering MLDA to 18 years old argues that it would decrease illegal drinking, prevent alcohol addiction, and allow the collection of accurate data on alcohol consumption youth who will acquire drinks legitimately.

  • Lowering the legal drinking age prevents young adults from drinking illegally.

The legal drinking age at 21 induce young adults to produce fake identity cards to drink illegally. Youth today are prohibited from drinking without supervision, which leads to the development of uncontrolled behavior. It is necessary to lower MLDA to allow early alcohol counseling from adults. Since the law states 18 years as the legal age defining an adult, the gap between legal age and legal drinking age serves as a temptation for teenagers to engage in faking their identities and adopting dangerous drinking patterns. Turning 18 in the US means you now have the right and responsibility to vote, smoke, serve on juries, sign contracts, get married, be prosecuted as adults, and join the military which raises the yearning to be considered a complete responsible adult. Once an individual is declared an adult based on their age, they should be allowed to do everything else that adults are allowed to do because they have the ability to handle consequences. If an individual declared an adult based on their age is given all other rights except drinking, it becomes tantalizing why the individuals not allowed to drink even though they can smoke and get married.

The prohibition from drinking is an aspect that does not recognize their ability to be responsible, which tempts past 18-year-old teens to drink as they are curious of their capability in conducting themselves as responsible adults promotes general disrespect and incongruous with other areas of US law where 18 is the legal age. With the threeyear gap between adulthood and legal drinking, teenagers often turn to the easy yet illegal way to obtain alcohol: fake IDs. Almost two-thirds of the respondents in a study conducted by researchers at the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland School of public Health used fake IDs to buy alcohol from a sample of 1,015 college students. This large percentage indicates how the current law is ineffective in stopping underage drinking as at least half of the population of college students are underage. Since the occasional chances to drink are limited since they are illegally impersonating an older age, young fake ID users will use such opportunities to binge drink. The consumption of an excessive amount of alcohol in a relatively short amount of time will develops into a dangerous drinking behavior. Kingkade notes that research by Amelia M. Arria, an Associate Professor of behavioral and community health at University of Minnesota, Duluth, stresses the relationship between false IDs and frequent drinking by stating. “In our sample, we found a clear pathway from more frequent false ID use to more frequent drinking, which led to greater risk for developing alcohol dependence. Such cases of forged documents to gain access to drinking implies that parents who orient their children in drinking responsibly are not involved. This leads to the growth of drinking problems like addiction and reckless drunk driving. If the legal drinking age was lowered, then teens are less likely to engage in illegal and dangerous drinking behavior since they reach the legal drinking age much more sooner. Lowering the MLDA is, therefore, a solution in ensuring the experimental youth have healthy drinking behavior due to the guidance offered earlier before they begin to consume alcohol in hiding without supervision.

  • Lowering the drinking age prevents alcohol addiction.

The fight against addiction to alcoholism relies on the ability of an individual to control their drinking behaviors which can only be achieved by allowing familiarization with alcohol SHAO 4 consumption under supervision. The ability to limit their alcohol consumption is based on the knowledge and direct contact with alcoholic beverages which is essential in developing healthier relationship between teenagers and drinking. Heath, an anthropology professor at Brown, explains a cultural difference between the US and European countries such as France and Italy where children are given small amounts of wine at family meals by their parents. “By doing this, parents educate their kids about alcohol and rob drinking of its taboo allure, which can make rebellious teenagers sneak off to basements and backwoods to binge drink far from adult supervision” Heath said. Heath further argues that introducing alcohol in the earlier stages of life by saying “Alcohol has no mystique. It’s no big deal. By contrast, where it’s banned until age 21, there’s something of the ‘forbidden fruit’ syndrome”. By lowering drinking age, alcohol wouldn’t seem that unobtainable or unfamiliar concept. Letting the idea slowly seep in seems to be a much better approach than putting a veil over alcohol. Early education, rather than keeping alcohol completely banned before 21, would do a better job at curbing binge drinking or other alcohol-related problems by allowing familiarization of alcohol consumption aspects like avoiding addiction at a young age.

  • Conflicting perspectives and the collection of accurate data

Strategic planning of drinking related campaigns on dealing with cases such as addiction, alcohol consumption behavior, and trends require reliable statistics; however, statistics on illicit drinking are affected by the lack of data on hidden youth drinking. This aspect can be rectified by lowering the MLDA to capture relatively accurate data comprising youth statistics. The discrepancies in studies involving different research groups have brought up more conflicts on the debate on the correct MLDA. Since youth are pushed by the yearning to be considered as adults, most youth between 16 and 21 are tempted to drink and experiment with alcoholic beverages in secret before the official legal age. This leads to the lack on alcohol consumption data which has raised conflicting perspectives on studies on alcohol impact on health, accidents, and health. From the health perspective, lowering MLDA offer early familiarization with alcohol and informed decision making which negates the claim that early drinking familiarization leads to brain damage. The National Institute of Mental Health found out that brains are not fully developed at 18, perhaps not even until 25. Underdevelopment indicates that the brain is vulnerable. In order to prove their point, many experiments were conducted to show and prove the relation between early age drinking and brain damage. In one of Crews’, director of the UNC Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Resea rch animal studies, a continued pattern of binge drinking in adolescence affects memory, alters sensitivity to motor impairment, and damages frontalanterior cortical regions which is important in the development of selfregulation, judgment, reasoning, problemsolving, and impulse control . With this and many other research findings, it is not a surprise that a n overwhelmingly percent of the population supports the current law: in fear of alcohol causing impairment to the brain even though the question arise on its credibility. It is only through the lowering of the MLDA that data can be collected to settle the debate impact of MLDA limit on health and accidents caused by drinking through collection of data from all groups of respondents including the youth.

On causing accidents, studies show that although lowering MLDA reduces traffic accidents and fatalities, more success on accident prevention is reported when there is a lower MLDA conflicting the accuracy data collected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that alcohol is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths annually among underage youth. Along the same lines, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that MLDA 21 decreased the number of fatal traffic accidents for 18 to 20 year olds by 13% and saved approximately 27,052 lives from 19752008. These numbers direct people’s minds into thinking that MLDA 21 does a nice job of lowering the number of alcohol related underage deaths. All of these contribute to why the US has its MLDA set at a higher than average age with immense public support. However, is of importance traffic accidents and fatalities are most common among newly legal drinkers, regardless of the MLDA. From 2009 to 2011, the 21 to 24-year-old drivers had the highest percentage in deadly crashes with blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels of .08 or higher – 35 percent.

Another reason to question the relationship between MLDA 21 and lowered alcoholrelated fatalities rate is that since 1982, two years prior to MLDA 21, a decline of drunk driving fatalities happened across all age groups, and therefore cannot be directly attributed to MLDA 21. It is notable that there are conflicting perspectives on MLDA which can only be saved by proper collection of data that includes all drinking individuals. It is achievable by encorporating data from the 18 21 age group which has a hidden consumption patterns due to the illegality by age.

Conclusion

The increased debate on MLDA to 18 years old is justifiable since it prevents illegal drinking, decreases the possibility of addiction, and allows for the collection of accurate data on youth alcohol consumption. Lowering the MLDA will ensure experimental youth have healthy drinking behaviors because they receive drinking advise and control from adults. Additionally, a lower MLDA will help avoid addiction by allowing familiarization with alcohol consumption under supervision.

Lastly, a lower MLDA will ensure proper collection of data inclusive of all drinking individuals, especially the 1821 age group, characterized by hidden consumption patterns due to the age restriction. Such data will be relatively reliable in making alcohol related decisions including MLDA policies thereby ensuring success in the fight against alcohol addiction.

Works Cited

  1. “AlcoholImpaired Driving.” Traffic Safety Facts , National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2012. Web. 29 Oct. 2016.
  2. Brandon Griggs, CNN. ‘Should the U.S. lower its drinking age?.’ CNN Wire 16 July 2014: Points of View Reference Center . Web. 29 Oct. 2016.
  3. Cary, Mary Kate. ‘Time To Lower The Drinking Age.’ U.S. News Digital Weekly 6.18 (2014): 15. Points of View Reference Center . Web. 29 Oct. 2016.
  4. “Fact Sheets Underage Drinking.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 Oct. 2016. Web. 29 Oct. 2016.
  5. Galson, Steven K. “PREVENTING AND REDUCING UNDERAGE DRINKING.” Public Health Reports , Association of Schools of Public Health, 2009. Web. 29 Oct. 2016.
  6. Kingkade, Tyler. “Using A Fake ID To Buy Alcohol Could Lead Towards Drinking Problems, Study Finds.” The Huffington Post , TheHuffingtonPost.com, 22 Oct. 2013. Web. 29 Oct. 2016.
  7. ‘Should the Drinking Age Be Lowered from 21 to a Younger Age?’ ProConorg Headlines . 2016 ProCon.org, 10 Mar. 2016. Web. 29 Oct. 2016.
  8. Sweedler, Berry M. ‘Presentation for the 15th International Conference on Alcohol, Drugs, and Traffic Safety.’ Drinking Age . NTSB, May 2000. Web. 29 Oct. 2016.
  9. Toomey, Traci L., Toben F. Nelson, and Kathleen M. Lenk. ‘The age‐21 minimum legal drinking age: a case study linking past and current debates.’ Addiction 104.12 (2009): 19581965.
  10. “The Teen Brain: Still Under Construction.” U.S National Library of Medicine , U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2011. Web. 29 Oct. 2016

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