The Legal Drinking Age Debate: Should it be Lowered?

The Legal Drinking Age Debate: Should it be Lowered?

In the USA, the legal drinking age has been 21 since 1984. The debate about whether to lower it has raged since it was raised, and binge drinking has only made it worse.

Thirteen is a landmark; finally a teenager. Sixteen is exciting; finally able to drive a car. Eighteen is golden; finally an adult, able to vote, join the military, and get married. Anything an adult can do – well, except drink. The legal drinking age in the United States of America is twenty one, raised to such in all fifty states by 1988, though the first few began in 1984. This was due to the National Minimum Age Drinking Act, signed into law in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan, and it stated that if states did not raise their legal drinking limit, then they would lose a percentage of federal highway dollars. With all this in mind, one of the main reasons people debate this issue is because of maturity. When is someone really mature enough to consume a drink that inhibits one’s ability to drive, and sometimes, even walk?

Reasons to Maintain the Drinking Age

Those who believe the drinking age should be maintained often cite binge drinking. Binge drinking has skyrocketed in recent years, and opponents of lowering of the drinking age claim this shows that anyone younger than eighteen are simply too immature to be allowed to have an alcoholic beverage. Usually this drinking takes place in underground and hidden places, such as fraternities, basements, and alleys; too often done excessively and without supervision or guidance. To this end, forty percent of college students report drinking in a way that would qualify them as having a symptom of alcohol dependence and there was the federal government’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which found that eighty five percent of twenty-year-old Americans had used alcohol. Two out of five said they had binged (on five or more drinks at one time) within the previous month.

Reasons to Lower the Drinking Age

For those who support lowering the drinking age, they claim that, while binge drinking is a problem, the root of it has to do with the legal drinking age being twenty one itself. The argument is that if someone really wants to drink, they’ll find a way, and because legal adults (eighteen to twenty year olds) cannot get a hold of alcohol themselves, will then go underground where there is no supervision or guidance; it is the lack of supervision that causes issues.

Doctor Steven Parker states in his blog on WebMD that he feels the best solution would be parents speaking to their children about drinking, and, essentially, giving them some sound advice. Advice like, “never drink for the sole reason of appearing cool” and “know when to stop and never drink on an empty stomach.”

In any case, the debate on whether the legal drinking age should be raised or maintained is still going strong today – twenty five years later – and with groups such as MADD and the Amethyst Initiative around, it doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon.

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