Lower Drinking Age in the U.S.

Lower Drinking Age in the U.S.

The debate over the legal minimum drinking age in the U.S. is a contentious one. It has been suggested that the legal drinking age in America should be lowered from 21 years to about 18 or 19 years. This has been voiced out due to various reasons which are worth considering as they have the potential to solve an array of problems associated with irresponsible drinking. Recognizing that drinking is a social norm in the U.S. it should also be worthwhile in lowering the minimum drinking age not only for the benefit of the youths but also the society at large. This paper presents reasons why the minimum legal drinking age in the U.S. should be lowered.

Minimum legal drinking age should be lowered

            The recognized adult age of 18 years should not come with some restrictions in some areas. This is not only unfair but it also appears discriminatory since the legal drinking age is twenty one years whereas a person is considered an adult from the age of eighteen years. As an adult, one should be allowed to enjoy the rights and responsibilities thereof. Cloud (para 3) argues that if a person is considered as an adult at 18 years and they can take responsibilities such as voting and adopting children and joining military, then there should be no reason why they should not be allowed to use alcohol. It is viewed that the special treatment given to alcohol makes those prohibited to view it as “a holy grail of adulthood” Cloud (para 3). A decision to consume alcohol made by an 18 year old does not greatly differ with a decision to join military or even to start a family. In fact retaining the minimum drinking age at 21 twenty one years makes those below the age and yet in the adult age feel infantilized. As an attempt to feel that they have reached adulthood, youths who are below 21 years end up consuming alcohol in irresponsible ways that leads to more problems.

By lowering the minimum drinking age, ether would be more responsible drinking that would solve a lot of problems found with drinking undercover. It should be recognized that raising the minimum drinking age to 21 years does not really keep of those below this age from drinking. Instead, they end up drinking in fraternity houses and other hidden places and expose themselves to a lot of harm. It has for instance been established that binge drinking among college and university students who are below 21 years is a common phenomenon. Due to lack of moderation and directions in responsible drinking, these youths find themselves suffering from irresponsible drinking. It is worse when these young persons drink and are involved in complications or in accidents since they cannot report to the police due to fear of being convicted. They therefore end up suffering alone with no one to share with, a problem that can be readily solved by lowering the minimum drinking age.

Of course it is argued that lowering the minimum drinking age would result to public health concerns such as increased motor vehicle accidents. This however should not be used to deny the young persons their rights. Restricting people, especially the young people, from a certain behavior propels them to do contrary. This means that the prohibited age group ends up drinking as an adventure. In the process, they end up being predisposed to the same effects that were being avoided and sometimes to worse effects since they drink in an irresponsible manner. Binge drinking among college students is for instance associated with a myriad of social and legal problems. As Main (para 14) puts it: “college students do stupid, illegal, dangerous, and sometimes deadly things when they drink.” Some of the illegal, dangerous and stupid things include engaging in unprotected sex, sexually assaulting female counterparts, as well as driving while drunk. In view of this, the minimum drinking age in America should be lowered to around 18 or 19 years and then advocate for responsible and accountable drinking. In addition, it is important to stress that efforts should be towards educating young people on how to drink responsibly instead of enacting an age restriction that is solving traffic accidents only.

It should also be noted that increasing the minimum legal drinking age to 21 years is not a solution to the underage drinking problem since the problems appears to be a social issue. Main (para 15) mentions that the drinking problem found especially among college students is a problem that starts earlier in life. Main (para 15) continues to argue that up to a third of all youths who drink alcohol in America first tasted alcohol even before reaching 13 years of age with some drinking for the first time while in eighth grade. This implies that social solutions should be sought to address the drinking problem rather than going the legal way which has little benefits and have missed the point.

History shows that restricting alcohol only results to greater problems. For instance, alcohol was prohibited in the 1920s under the National Prohibition Law.  This never worked but instead brought about more social problems and the rules become even enforceable. The government had to lift this prohibition after a few years of failed law. Learning from such a past, it is only wise to lift up this age ban or otherwise the same failure is to be repeated again. History also shows that social and public health problems increased when the minimum drinking age was raised to 21 years in 1987. It is for instance reported that some variables that indicate irresponsible drinking increased among college students under the age of 21 years. For example, vomiting after drinking went up from 46 percent before the law to 50 percent after the law. Engaging in a fight after drinking rose from 12 percent to 17 percent whereas missing classes as a result of hangover increased from 26 percent to 28 percent (Engs, para 6).

It is worth evaluating the state of alcohol consumption in other countries. This is necessary for making a comparison and making the necessary adjustments in regulation of alcohol. Engs (para 7) examines drinking among the Italians, Chinese and the Jews and observes that these cultures report few drinking problems yet is not as restricted as it is in the U.S. Failure to impose rigorous restrictions on drinking among the above cultures makes gets rid of the view of alcohol as a magic or even poison and the youths do not feel pressurized to drink. America should borrow from these cultures where parents and other adults teach the young people how to handle alcohol responsibly.

By legalizing drinking to persons of 21 years and over only makes those below this age view alcohol as a symbol of maturity. This is a notion that is quite misleading considering that adolescents want to appear mature and that even constitutionally they are recognized as adults. In an attempt to actually appear mature, most young people end up indulging into drinking which is done undercover and irresponsibly. Dart (p 16) says that the high legal age of drinking “pushes the drinking into hiding, heightening its risks.” To drive out this misconception keep of consequences of irresponsible drinking, the minimum drinking age must be lowered at least to 18 or 19 years. There should be no fear of leading this group of young people into more social problems since they can be taught responsible drinking in the colleges through role models. This would eliminate the many problems related to irresponsible drinking that is done in hiding with lack of knowledge. drinking

            Regulation of the minimum drinking age is a debate that requires thorough evaluation. So far, it is not reasonable enough to keep the minimum legal drinking age in America at 21 years. This age should be lowered to accommodate the young people who are discriminated as adults. The problem of alcohol consumption among the young people ought to be tackled from a social rather than a legal perspective. Youths who are below 21 years indulge in dangerous and irresponsible drinking which is done undercover. The many problems that arise from this are even more severe than those that are thought to be prevented by the 21 years drinking law. America should learn from past failures on prohibition of alcohol and move on to lower the minimum drinking age. Overall, the minimum legal drinking age should be lowered and the efforts should be geared towards teaching youths how to handle alcohol responsibly.


Works Cited

Engs, Ruth C. Why the drinking age should be lowered: An opinion based upon research. 1998. Retrieved 27, April 2010 from http://www.indiana.edu/~engs/articles/cqoped.html

Cloud, John. Should the drinking age be lowered? 2008, June 06. Time. Accessed 27, April 2010 from http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1812397,00.html

Dart, John. College presidents ask public to rethink drinking age. The Christian Century. Volume: 125. Issue: 19. September 23, 2008. Page Number: 16.

Main, Carla T. Underage drinking and the drinking age. Policy Review. 2009; 155:33+. Web. 28, April 2010 from Questia.com.


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