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Almost everyone can agree that alcohol should not be given or allowed to children or young adults under a certain age. Alcohol is a substance that is very dangerous and if you used incorrectly or immaturely the consequences can be a great danger to the users or the ones around them. The topic of lowering the drinking age has been in discussion for many decades. “Between 1970 and 1976, 29 states lowered their age for drinking alcohol. The results were catastrophic. Highway deaths among teenagers and young adults skyrocketed. Almost immediately, states began raising the minimum drinking age again.” “In 1984, Congress passed the Uniform Drinking Age Act, which required states to have a minimum drinking age of 21 for all types of alcohol consumption if they wanted to receive federal highway monies. The legal drinking age has stayed at 21 since then” (Main). Although the age has been lowered and raised again, this topic has not been resolved throughout these decades. Underage drinking, specifically under the age of 21, should not be allowed in any country because it is very dangerous, when it comes to health complications and other risks, and can be taken under poor circumstances where it can be overused or misused.
“Alcohol is the oldest and most widely used drug in the world” (Whiting). Once one becomes addicted to it, they use this alcoholic beverage as a substitute for regular drinking beverages. It does not take very long for one to become an alcoholic either. “Many people think alcohol is a stimulant, but actually it is a depressant. It slows down the function of all living cells, especially those in the brain” (Whiting). “Studies show that drinking often begins at very young ages” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). If one is to drink alcohol at a young age this person is put at greater risk of becoming a full-on alcoholic very quickly. Young people think it is cool to drink alcohol and to party all the time. Once they get a taste of this beverage they usually want more. Also, because of peer pressure, young people are more likely to drink alcohol because it is what the “cool” people are doing.
Alcohol leads to other drugs and substance abuse, too. If the drinking age were to lower to eighteen, this would not change the actions of young partiers. “Alcohol should be forbidden to 18- to 20-year-olds precisely because they have a propensity to binge drink whether the stuff is illegal or not—especially males” (Main). Drinking alcohol usually leads to other illegal substances. “Youths who report drinking prior to the age of 15 are more likely to develop substance abuse problems, to engage in risky sexual behavior, and to experience other negative consequences in comparison to those who begin at a later time” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).
Another reason to keep the drinking age at 21 is that drinking slows the reaction time and also makes it to where the drinker has less control of his or her body. For example, a male who becomes drunk is more likely to rape young women. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “It is estimated that 90% of college rapes involve the use of alcohol by the assailant, the victim, or both. About 97,000 college students are victims of sexual assault or date rape related to alcohol use each year. Alcohol use is involved in 95% of all violent crime on college campuses” (“Underage Drinking Is a Serious Problem”). According to Carla T. Main, “approximately 100,000 incidents annually” are reported of “males sexually [assaulting] their female companions” (“The Minimum Legal Drinking Age Should Not Be Lowered”). But rape is not always the case. Usually, if both partners are under the influence of alcohol they are more likely to have unprotected sex. “According to the CAS, among the 8 million college students in the United States surveyed in one study year,…Eight percent of students—474,000—have unprotected consensual sex each year because they have been drinking” (Main). If the government were to lower the drinking age more unprotected sex and rape would occur because they would have more of an opportunity to drink and would not get into any trouble drinking either.
Another example of alcohol slowing the reaction time and resulting in less control of the individual’s actions is accidents that occur when under the influence of alcohol. According to Main, “on average 1,100 a year die from alcohol-related traffic crashes and another 300 die in non-traffic alcohol-related deaths“. According to the CAS, among the 8 million college students in the United States surveyed in one study year, more than 2 million drove under the influence of alcohol and more than 3 million rode in cars with drivers who had been drinking” (“The Minimum Legal Drinking Age Should Not Be Lowered”). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that “relative to adults, young people who drink and drive have an increased risk of alcohol-related crashes because of their relative inexperience behind the wheel and their increased impairment from alcohol” (“Underage Drinking Is a Serious problem”). Other accidents that can occur due to alcohol are “…poisonings, drownings, falls, burns…” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). From a few of these accidents “in 2002, 2,569 individuals ages 16 to 20 died from unintentional injuries other than motor vehicle crashes…approximately 40% of these deaths were alcohol-related” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).
The most important reason to keep the legal drinking age at twenty-one is because of the effects it has on the health of the user. Alcohol is very harmful to our bodies if used in huge proportions. But even used in small proportions it can still harm the body, just not as much and not as fast. If someone were to binge drink the user has a very good chance of getting alcohol poisoning which could result in the death of that individual. Alcohol is very harmful to many, if not all, of the organs. According to Albert S. Whiting, “there is a great deal of evidence to show that even a small amount of alcohol can be quite harmful to the heart.” Whiting also reported that “alcohol has a direct effect on heart muscle cells” (“Alcohol Use Is Harmful”). When drinking alcohol it speeds up the heart rate because you are dehydrated from the body getting rid of the poison that the alcohol has in it. Speeding up the heart rate can be very bad for anyone. A long-term effect that alcohol can have on the heart is that it “has an influence on the risk factors for coronary heart disease” (Whiting). Because the alcohol spreads through all of the bloodstreams it goes through every organ. The reason that someone’s memory was to blur while using this substance would be because it is affecting the brain which controls all parts of the body. “The organ most sensitive to alcohol is the brain… Alcohol destroys brain cells which, unlike the blood cells it also destroys, are irreplaceable. [Also the] reaction times are slowed and their muscle coordination is less efficient” (Whiting).
Alcohol deters the judgment and therefore allows the person to react to any situation in a way that they would not normally do if they could control their body. A young person’s brain is very fragile during teenage and young adulthood. The brain is still forming at this time, so therefore when the brain is exposed to the chemicals that alcohol contains it is subject to unhealthy and permanent damage. Once alcohol is put into one’s system it is pushed throughout the body and cause multiple health problems that may result in permanent damage to the organ.
The common argument that most debate is that people of the age of 18 “can vote, join the military, sign contracts, and even smoke. Why shouldn’t they be able to drink?” (“Arguments for Lowering”). This is because there is a certain maturity level that one must reach. Eighteen year-old to twenty-one year-olds are not mature enough to handle such a chemical as alcohol. Which then we would have to take into consideration that some adults older than 21 are not mature. But these adults would still have to take responsibility for their actions. Most of these adults are responsible and know how to handle their alcohol. Teenagers, on the other hand, are not at all responsible. They only think about themselves and sometimes they do not think at all.
Alcohol is a dangerous substance. People under the age of 21 do not have the responsibility or the right to contain this substance. It is dangerous to the health and overall being of anyone. By putting this substance into one’s body one is putting themselves at risk for multiple things to happen, such as a health complication or other outcomes like bad sexual conduct or worse, rape. The drinking age should stay at 21 because by this age we have grown some responsibility and most of the growth of the brain has stopped by this age.
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