Lowering the legal drinking age spells doom
Alcohol is perhaps the most normalized drug in the United States. Nicotine faces smear campaigns aiming to shock teenagers into staying away from cigarettes. “Catmageddon” ads, while very out of touch, aim at the YouTube generation and attempt to appeal to teens and get them to not smoke or face the fearful reality of a world without cat videos. As for other hard drugs, groups of adults go from high school to high school warning teenagers why using them is bad and how they can destroy your life, their own lives serving as examples.
However, alcohol is embraced by the public. Its users are not shown to be sick like cigarette smokers and it does not face the slander that “hard” drugs do. You’ll never see a Newport ad modeled after Budweiser’s immortal horse commercials or an ad promoting cocaine that imitates Bud Light’s “Up For Whatever” campaign. Alcohol has become normalized in the nation to the point where debate has grown over whether the legal drinking age of 21 should be changed. Unfortunately for the 18-year-old that hopes to get wasted at Lucky’s Bar legally, this is a bad idea.
Quite possibly the most overwhelming point that demonstrates why lowering the drinking age is not smart is that doing so is not medically responsible. According to ProCon.org, the consumption of alcohol by young adults can interfere with the development of the frontal lobes of their brains, which are responsible for the regulation of emotions. To quote Marty McFly, “This is heavy.”
Emotions allow humans to interact with each other and form human connections. Being unable to control them properly and thus connect with others from a younger age could be disastrous for an individual. Society has a fear of being unable to connect to other people, demonstrated by our depiction of loners as the nerdy kid bound to live in mother’s basement or the moody, angst-filled Marilyn Manson clone. Society would not be accepting of someone unable to connect with other people, spelling doom for their future.
HealthResearchFunding.org has claimed that 28% of high school students admit to having missed class at least once a year due to being hungover. HRF also reported that since the legal age of 21 was established, more kids have been missing school because of alcohol. Before the legal age was set, states had their own unique legal drinking ages, which were lower than 21 in some instances, leading the audience to believe that a higher drinking age limits the educational growth and subsequent possibilities in life for individuals. However, Hollywood stars like Amy Adams, who didn’t receive a college education, have proven time and time again that education is not necessary to live a good life and receiving educational growth doesn’t grant a good life to anyone either. A student will get nowhere in life if they cannot regulate emotions properly and connect with others.
Furthermore, the most valuable skill for a student coming out of college looking for work and for any human is to be able to connect to others and create bonds. You want to be able to communicate with your boss, know your co-worker’s favorite sports team or how their star youth soccer player is doing. Human communication is vital to success in today’s working world and if young adults enter the working world unable to communicate due to a lack of control on their emotions, their future could very well be destroyed.
Of course, given the idea that consumption of alcohol can hurt the young adult’s brain, it is important to ensure that the legal drinking age actually prevents alcohol consumption. Otherwise, what’s the point of keeping the drinking age? Therefore, it is significant to note that when the drinking age was raised to 21 for the country, drinking for young adults began to decline. According to the CDC, after the drinking age was established in 1984, drinking among people aged 18–20 declined, with 59% of individuals drinking in a month to 1985 to 40% in 1991.
If less underage teens are getting wrecked due to the higher drinking age, they’re simultaneously protecting their dreams of advancing in life. The higher drinking age supposedly “doesn’t stop [college students] from drinking” according to Independent Institute research fellow Anna Wavrin and University of Tampa sophomore Abigail R. Hall-Blanco, but statistics speak differently and show why having a higher drinking age benefits the younger population.
Lowering the drinking age could have an effect on the brain of teenagers stemming simply from the consumption of alcohol, but it’s important to recognize the various other health issues that would result from the decision. According to an opinion piece in The New York Times about an alcohol-related study, a lower drinking age is associated with a higher risk of unintended pregnancy and worse infant health as a result.
Lowering the drinking age does not only call into question the health of the teenagers that would be consuming alcohol but also the infants that could be produced as a result. If television programs like Teen Mom have shown the world anything besides the rapidly declining standards of modern television, it is that teenagers are not prepared to be parents. Unplanned pregnancies would lead to worse infant health in addition to possibly detrimental consequences for the unprepared parents, one of such being dropping out of school.
Those that try to argue for lowering the legal drinking age point towards European nations with lower drinking ages. According to a Choose Responsibility article that cited a 2003 reading, 15 and 16 year-olds in European countries where the drinking age is 18 or lower drink to levels of dangerous intoxication less per month than Americans of the same age, while nearly 10% of drinking occasions resulted in intoxication in southern European nations compared to half in the United States. Choose Responsibility, an organization that is attempting to lower the legal drinking age to 18, uses this information to demonstrate how a lower legal drinking age benefits European nations.
However, these European nations have a much different culture surrounding alcohol, as children grow up with alcohol as a presence in their life much more so than Americans. It is more likely that they would not be intoxicated as much as Americans because of this different culture and how familiar they are with alcohol given their lifestyle. Simply put, you cannot compare drinking in European nations to drinking in the United States due to the differences between the cultures in the countries. Advocates for lowering the drinking age can make their case, but in the end, lowering the drinking age is not best for the United States.
Another component of the argument to lowering the drinking age resides in the concept of adulthood. At age 18, an American is generally considered an adult. 18-year-olds can vote, legally purchase and use tobacco products, get married and sign contracts among other things, according to ProCon.org. Because of this, some Americans, rather unwisely if I may add, believe that this age of adulthood warrants lowering the drinking age because “legal” adults would be responsible enough to limit their consumption. However, using tobacco does have health effects, but I’ve never seen the signing of a contract present so many serious health consequences. Furthermore, while marriage is considered harmful for health by many, I don’t think it’s quite this detrimental.
It’s indisputable that the age of adulthood is widely considered to be 18 in the U.S. and that American citizens receive many rights at the age. Nevertheless, the consumption of alcohol is vastly different and is a more powerful right than many of these rights received. Overconsumption of alcohol can lead to alcohol poisoning and possibly death, while driving intoxicated not only risks the life of the driver and their passengers, but of other drivers and passengers.
Furthermore, the human brain doesn’t finish its development until an individual is around 25 years old according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. Allowing “adults” that, according to URMC, make decisions emotionally is not safe for the country. Their minds do not make decisions logically, therefore they are not as likely to make smart, rational decisions protecting their safety and the safety of others. I never make good decisions when motivated by emotions, no one does. An emotion like anger is quite possibly a stronger drug than alcohol. Despite 18-year-olds supposedly being adults, they are not developed or mature enough to make good decisions about alcohol consumption.
Alcohol is an extremely popular drug in the United States but doesn’t face the backlash that nearly every other drug does despite its destructive potency. Lowering the drinking age would invite its adverse health effects to new generations and would bring serious issues into the lives of unprepared youth. Lowering the drinking age has benefits, but they fall short of matching up to the devastating health effects that would plague younger generations if the legal drinking age was lowered.