At What Age Should People Start drinking?

In America, the whole drinking age limit is a controversial subject. Questions such as why is it so high, should it be lower, why is the age limit so drastically different from foreign countries, often float around this conversation. However, what most people do not take into consideration is that there are both pros to having the drinking age limit so high just as there are cons.

 

Source: Federal Highway Admistration
Source: Federal Highway Admistration

Currently, the drinking age is set at 21. To answer the question of why the age limit is so high, it is important to look back on history. In July of 1984, the National Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLPA) Act was put into motion. This law requires the prohibition of a person under 21 to consume in alcohol, however, this law is actually bigger than just the problem of underage consumption. If states did not conform to this law the government would take away their funding from federal highways.

 

 

There are a multitude of people who agree with this act. There are organizations such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), Choose Responsibility, and even ABC has posted articles that are pro 21 drinking age.  However, the most influential group that is supporting this law is the APIS (Alcohol Police Information System). The reason why the drinking age is so strongly advocated beyond just funding for the highways is the fact that in 1970 to 1975 when the government lowered the drinking age, underage drinking drastically increased before activating the law of 1984. In the Arizona Department of Public Safety(1), it was recorded there was a more than a 35% increase in traffic fatalities when the MLPA was changed from 21 to 19.

Source: ESPAD via Dr. David Jernigan
Source: ESPAD via Dr. David Jernigan

 

According to Dr. David Jernigan countries such as  Denmark and the United Kingdom show increasing high drunkenness in countries that have a lower drinking age. Which increasingly makes the concern, for people start drinking at a young age, grow.  Getting drunk can lead to binge drinking which can be a slippery slope towards death or at least almost dying.
However, there is the other side of the coin. There is always has been to be an uproar from the youth to change the drinking age back to 18. One organization is anti-21 drinking age is the Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). One of the reasons the reason they state is that about 90% of 18 to 20 years are still consuming alcohol despite what the law says.

However, even the organization of Choose Responsibility states that when alcohol is not treated as a big deal allowing 15 and 16 years to part take in occasional drinks in the month tend to not lead towards the dangerous path of intoxication that US experience. This is due to the fact that people are not socialized to believe that alcohol is this big scary thing, and are able to enter the drinking environment with a responsible and controlled adult. Often time’s alcohol is seen more as a cultural thing than a “party” item. In a place such as France and Italy, having more than two bottles of wine during dinner is not a big deal, however, their dinners are far longer than the average American dinner. Since the French have longer dinners they are less likely to get drunk, because the consumption is evenly spaced out.

Even in countries where teen drunkenness is higher, they have programs that allow designated drivers to drink free while their buddies get drunk. Which avoids the whole problem of people driving drunk and even those who want to drink as well they have a service across Europe for designated drivers to come pick up drunken people.  Because even in Europe they are still against drunk driving; it is a reckless act and should be put to a stop. Some of these programs could be used in the US, however it’s not well advertised.
To sum up this whole article is there are plus to both sides just as there are downsides to changing the drinking age, however, is the drinking age helping the youth or is it just helping the state? Perhaps it is not the drinking age that is the problem in America, it could possibly be the way American’s socialize alcohol.

 

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(1) Arizona Department of Public Safety, “An Impact Assessment of Arizona’s Lowered Legal Drinking Age and a Review of Previous Research,” Statistical Center, 1981

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