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Should the Legal Drinking Age in the US be Lowered?

“Why the legal drinking age should never be lowered to eighteen”

“It is critical that parents, teachers, and mentors educate the youth about underage drinking well in advance before they’re face with a decision regarding alcohol” (Unknown).Those whom are under the age of twenty-one will never grasp the consequences of why the legal drinking age should never be lowered. Underage drinking continues to be an issue and a serious public health matter in the United States. Alcohol is the leading used substance of abuse amongst youth in America, studies has shown that drinking by young people poses enormous long term health and safety concerns due to peer pressure and other external factors.

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First, it’s important to understand that society considers individuals to be adults upon reaching the legal age of 18. From the age eighteen on, individuals are held legally responsible for all their actions and are believed to be able to make sound decisions that will impact their lives in a good or bad way. Although a lot of states are approving more legal rights for those turning 18 to include, but not limited to, getting married without a parent’s consent and lease an apartment without parental consent. One could argue that a person only has to be eighteen to buy tobacco products, but tobacco doesn’t affect teenagers’ mental state and ability to make decisions the way alcohol does and has. Even with all those new legal rights majority of teenagers fresh out of high school aren’t mentally ready to make sound decisions, especially if the legal age to buy alcohol is lowered.

Lowering the legal drinking age of twenty-one to eighteen will only increase the problems already faced with in America. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism statistics state, over 1,580 deaths from motor vehicle accidents, 1,761 from homicides and suicides, 245 from alcohol poisoning and falls, all come from underage drinking. All of these problems are magnified by early onset of teen drinking: the younger the drinker, the worse the problem. “Furthermore, frequent binge drinking by young adults and teenagers can lead to mild brain damage or worse, death” (O’Connell 2005).

Why so many young people drink is based on numerous external as well as internal factors to include peer pressure, stress and the increased desire to wanting to drink. When he or she sees his or her friend drinking, then it only makes sense for them to want to drink, especially if that other person is someone they like. In the journal, “Underage Drinking and Antisocial Behavior: Research to Inform a U.K. Behavioral Intervention” stated that, “Street drinking” was identified as the most common recreational activity for youths and was motivated by peer pressure and stress-related behavior, and the easy accessibility of alcohol (Lloyd 2015). People under the age of twenty-one will be peer-pressured 24/7 based on their surroundings as well as dealing the sense of belonging. Turning to alcohol due to stress at a young age can increase the risk of alcohol problems later in life, which is why numerous states have created motivational programs to help young adults stay on track.

Alcohol use by young people is dangerous, not only because of the risks associated with acute impairment, but also because of the threat to their long-term development and well-being. Memory loss, liver damage, cardiovascular disease is just a few things that alcohol will affect and starting at a young age will increase the amount of damage being done at a higher rate. As trusted adults in young adults’ lives, it’s key to break bad habits so drinking doesn’t become the social norm for underage individuals.

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Padon argued in the articleTapping into Motivations for Drinking Among Youth: Normative Beliefs About Alcohol Use Among Underage Drinkers in the United States, “Social norms affect human behavior, and underage drinking is no exception. Using the theory of normative social behavior, this study tested the proposition that the association between perceptions about the prevalence of drinking (descriptive norms) and underage drinking is strengthened when perceived pressures to conform (injunctive norms) and beliefs about the benefits of drinking (outcome expectations) are high”(Padon 2016). Stating that youth are more motivated when they drink is an exaggeration by Padon as well as a weak argument, she didn’t take in consideration the negative effects and because multiple social studies show that with increase drinking in youth have increased the number of fatal accidents. The general desire for underage drinking is the result of being pressured by external factors and doesn’t come with any positive effects.

In conclusion, lowering the legal drinking age would only pose a range of risk and negative possibly fatal consequences. “Underage drinking and its associated problems have profound negative consequences for underage drinkers themselves, their families, their communities, and society as a whole, and contribute to a wide range of costly health and social problems” (Harding 2016).

Work Cited

  • Harding, Frances M et al. “Underage Drinking.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 51.4 (2016): S148–S157. Web
  • Lloyd, Helen, Tafoya, Audra, and Merritt, Rowena. “Underage Drinking and Antisocial Behavior: Research to Inform a U.K. Behavioral Intervention.” Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse 24.1 (2015): 46–53. Web
  • O’Connell, Mary. “Underage Drinking.” Issues in Science and Technology 21.2 (2005): 82–85. Web.
  • Padon, Alisa A. et al. “Tapping Into Motivations for Drinking Among Youth: Normative Beliefs About Alcohol Use Among Underage Drinkers in the United States.” Journal of Health Communication 21.10 (2016): 1079–1087. Web.
  • Wagoner, Kimberly G et al. “Social Host Policies and Underage Drinking Parties.” Substance use & misuse 48.1-2 (2013): 41–53. Web.
  • Reducing Underage Drinking a Collective Responsibility. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2003. Print.

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