Developed countries are the countries that reached a high level of economic development. They overcame many problems on the way to prosperity of their population. However, it does not mean that now those countries have no problems at all. Having achieved decent prosperity of their residents, they faced many social issues and contradictions. One of such problems is the legal drinking age. It is especially a topical issue in the United States of America. The current drinking age in this country is 21 years old. People can buy alcoholic beverages only upon reaching this age. However, some people consider that the legal drinking age should be lowered from 21 to 18 years old. There is no agreement on this hot debate topic in the United States. One part of the population is convinced that young people under the age of 18 are still at risk to fall under the negative influence of alcohol. They even support the idea of raising the legal drinking age. The other part of the population is not sure that the prohibition of alcohol for young people is an effective method of preventing alcohol abuse in adolescents. Although many people believe that young people have rights to buy alcoholic beverages at the age of 18 years, the legal drinking age should not be lowered because it would increase the alcoholism rate among teenagers and worsen the overall situation with alcohol abuse later in their lives.
Alcoholism and Its Statistics
There are many reasons why the legal drinking age should not be lowered. In order to understand this problem, it is necessary to determine what alcoholism is and analyze the current situation with the alcoholism in the country among adults and teenagers. Alcoholism is a serious dependence that is characterized by a painful addiction to alcohol with psychic and physical dependence on it. It is the addiction that has such main features as a strong need to drink, loss of control, some physical deviations in the proper functioning of the body, and others. One of the negative features of this process is that it affects not only the person who drinks, but also people who live around this drinker. It even has an effect on the economy of the country. It results from the weak productivity and inability to carry out difficult tasks by the people who drink alcohol.
The alcoholism statistics is one of the ways to see the real situation and scope of this problem within the country. There are many people in the United States of America who suffer from alcoholism. “43 percent of the population has a family member who is an alcoholic. That works out to approximately 76 million people who grew up in a home where someone had a problem with alcohol or married someone with one” (Ziemba). People who like to drink too much alcohol are twice likely to be divorced than people who tend to avoid overconsumption of alcohol beverages. Thus, alcoholism is a very serious problem for the residents of the U.S. This problem should be solved in some way at the social and government level. Lowering the legal drinking age could only make this problem even more serious and critical than it is right now.
There is evidence that the low drinking age could cause more binge drinking. In the states where drinking age is lower, people are more likely to be addictive from alcohol in their future life. The study that was conducted by the Researchers from the University School of Medicine in St. Louis showed interesting results. More than 39 thousand people who were tracked from the 1970s, when law in some states in America allowed people to buy alcohol at age of 18 years old, have serious problem with alcohol abuse today (Wood). Another interesting result of this study showed that people where the legal drinking age was not lower than 21 years old drank more rarely than people from other states. However, when they reached the necessary age, they tended to drink more heavily. The researches highlighted that it was especially evidenced in those people who did not go to college: “It is also important not to completely forget about young people who are not on college campuses. In our study, they had the greatest risk of suffering the long-term consequences linked to lower drinking age” (Wood).
The researchers came up with many other results. In those states where people had an opportunity to buy alcohol earlier, men tended to binge drink oftener than one time per month. The statistics were even worse among people who did not go to college. The situation in states where the legal drinking age was higher was much better. Besides, the frequency of binge episodes, general drinking frequency and general daily alcohol intake were also tracked. The researchers also analyzed how often people drank but did not binge. Richard Grucza, who was responsible for this study, concluded that, when researchers examined daily alcohol consumption, they indicated that people who began to drink earlier in their life were more prone to binge drinking than others (Wood). It should be considered by those experts who want to lower the legal drinking age. The situation on college campuses, where binge drinking among students became a more common phenomenon, is a very serious issue to think about. It is possible that lowering the drinking age would lead to more serious consequences.
Another serious problem that could occur from the adoption of the law lowering the legal drinking age is drunk driving. Drunk driving is a significant problem for the road safety in the United States. According to statistics, the situation with young drivers is more critical than with adults. Teenagers who obtained the driven license are more likely to be drunk while driving than those who are over 25. “In 2010, the highest drunk driving rates were found amongst those ages 21 to 25 (23.4%), and 18 to 20 (15.1%). After age 25, the drunk driving rate decreases” (Nagin). Thus, young drivers tend to drink more than adults.
Lowering the legal drinking age could lead to the decline of public safety on the roads. Nowadays, young generation does not feel a serious responsibility for their actions. The total access of youth to the television and the Internet, where a too permissive lifestyle is shown, made a great influence on their behavior. Many teenagers who reached the necessary for obtaining the driving license age want to show that they are adults. However, they sit in the car and do not feel that they are responsible not only for their lives, but for the lives of all participants of the traffic. Unfortunately, many of them use a car for entertainment rather than for transportation. That is why many of them like to drink while driving. If the government decides to lower the legal drinking age, it will mean that the young generation could have a free access to alcohol beverages. As a result, it would lead to more car crashes on the roads. “The latest statistics showed that the proportion of young drivers either testing positive or refusing to take a test at all rose by 15 percent over the past years” (Millward). It is strong evidence that should be taken into account in order to keep the legal drinking age at 21.
Alcohol and Violent Behavior
Alcohol should be kept away from people younger than 21 years old as it leads to destructive or violent behavior. Alcohol has a very negative impact on brain and development of young body. A weak young body is not ready to withstand the alcohol influence. Therefore, the early use of alcohol by young people can lead to negative consequences. Alcohol could be the reason of academic failures, hazardous sexual behaviors, drug abuse, and changes in the structure of the brain in the young generation. Alcohol could work as a distractive mechanism that would direct young people from the important things in their lives such as education or career planning.
It should be kept in mind that adolescence is a period of life that is characterized by a great propensity to violence. It would be very palpable after legalizing the law about lowering the drinking age. The aggressiveness of young people while they are drunk could cause criminal behavior. The example of this is an increase in a date rape rate. There was a study that was conducted by the National Institute in Ireland. It indicated that alcohol is one of the main reasons that push people to commit date rape. “75 percent of male students and 55 percent of female students involved in date rape had been drunk or using drugs” (Nagin). Alcohol is a drug that seems to be less harmful than others. However, it is necessary to remember that it as dangerous as other drugs. Young people who consume alcohol products usually do not notice the small changes in their behavior, which could turn into aggressiveness or crime. They are not old enough to distinguish the positive behavior from negative and alcohol makes this task even more difficult to accomplish.
Difference of American and European Situation
Some experts claim that there are many countries that keep the legal drinking age at the level of 18 years old and these countries do not experience significant problems associated with this. Very often, European countries are mentioned as an example. However, it is necessary to see the difference between the behavior of the European and American people. For those who think that the American nation should follow the European model, where people are able to buy alcohol starting from 18 years old, it is necessary to understand that people in European countries use public transport more than Americans. In contrast to Europeans, the American people get used to driving their own cars and could not imagine their life without their own transport. That is European countries have a lower rate of drunk driving incidents. Many people prefer using buses, subways, trams, and high-speed trains. Moreover, European countries actively encourage its residents to use bikes as an alternative mode of transportation. The situation in the United States is completely different. It is wrong to expect from the lowering drinking age the same effects as it has in Europe. “It’s not that young people in Europe are more careful. It’s that they haven’t got the car” (Richburg).
Impact on Teenagers
Another serious issue to consider for people who want to lower the drinking age should be the fact that in this case alcohol would be available even to teenagers. The forbidden and remote product of their age would be made closer. It is obvious that people who are between 18 to 21 years old do not want to wait until they reach the legal drinking age. Many of them drink alcohol illegally. The behavior of adults makes a respective influence on the younger generation. The same principle would be observed if the legal drinking age would be lowered to 18 years. 18 years old people have the same impact on teenagers. If people who reached 18 years get permission to drink alcohol, it will automatically increase the risk of alcohol consumption among teenagers. Legal access to alcohol beverages for students under the age of 21 will provide much more opportunities for teenagers to get the alcohol illegally with the help of elder young people. It is important to understand that teenagers constantly spend their time with young people that reached 18 years old. They consider them as authority and they are ready to copy any their behavior. In this way, lowering of the drink age would also have negative impacts on teenagers who are under the age of 18 years.
Many people have a wrong idea about responsibility of young generation when it comes to alcohol consumption. They think that making 18 years old as a legal age of drinking would make students consume alcohol beverages responsibly. In favor of this argument, they use the assumption that it is better for young people to start drink alcohol under the supervision at colleges or campuses rather than at uncontrolled parties away from adults. However, there is no clear evidence about the ability of young people drink responsibly when they have a free access to alcohol. The responsibility of alcohol’s consumption comes when the youth can make serious decisions and earn their own money. Supervision is not a real tool that can help to develop a sense of responsibility in the minds of the young generation.
Health and Wisdom
The final important factor why the American authority should not lower the legal drinking age is the importance for young people to be wise and healthy at this period of life. During this time, many of them get ready to make the most important choices in their lives. Some of them could decide to get good education; some of them could decide to find a job or get married. At this specific age, a person is required to make some significant choices in his or her life and follow them through the whole life. Alcohol could distract the attention of young people from the right path and turn it in the wrong direction. Additionally, alcohol is a strong and dangerous for the health drug. It can heavily undermine the health of the young generation in a very short period of time. If often used, it could cause a serious disease or disruption in the functioning of the young, weak body. Many adolescents who have serious problems with their health began to drink at a very early age. “Adolescents who begin drinking prior to age 14 are more likely to develop a serious problem with alcohol later in their life” (NIAAA). This evidence proves that the earlier people start to drink, the worse their health will be in the future. That is why it is not wise to lower the legal drinking age.
The legal drinking age should not be lowered because it can seriously undermine the health, wisdom, and human principles that began to evolve in young people. It could lead to the increase in criminal rates and amounts of drunk driving accidents. The United States is not Europe, and the decision on this issue should be made in accordance with the American way of life. Instead of having a free access to alcohol, adolescents should focus their attention on more significant choices in their lives.