Lowering the Legal Drinking Age


For the past years, there has been a quiet movement that is being done in order to lower the legal drinking age to 18. This is happening as advocates claim that teens who are permitted to vote and fight during war should also be allowed to drink a beer or two (Johnson, 2007). This proposal is now taking roots in a national petition drive by the National Youth Rights Association which encompasses states such as Vermont, Florida, Wisconsin and Missouri where most of the supporters encourage a ballot initiative.

However, those who are in opposition argue that the rise in binge drinking results in an increasingly percentage of teens turning to hard liquor, which somehow emphasizes the point that minors should not be allowed to drink at all. David J. Hanson, an alcohol policy expert at the State University of New York-Potsdam posits that raising the drinking age to 21 was done with the very best of intentions but it had the worst of outcomes. It seemed that teeners just hid their habit and increased it all the more. Again, this was countered by the other side who maintained that it made no sense to repeal or weaken laws that save lives (Johnson, 2007).

Main body

The Joint Committee of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and the American Society of Addiction Medicine defines alcoholism as a primary chronic disease which manifests as having impaired control over drinking drug alcohol and use of alcohol despite adverse consequences (American Council on Alcoholism, 2005).

In actuality, there is no such thing as the term they call “federal legal drinking age.” Many of the states do not quite prohibit the minors from drinking alcohol and they still set conditions in this. This phrase points instead to the state laws that had been adopted in the 1980s because of Congress pressure which threatened to withhold 0 percent of federal highway funds from states that did not go with the rule of prohibiting the selling of alcohol to people under the age of 21. Thus, in 1988, there were 49 states that had complied with this after several years of court fights where Louisiana joined in 1995. (Johnson, 2007).

There were some conservative groups which saw the age limits as having been extorted by Washington, which have been at the forefront of lowering the drinking age. In recent years, though, many academics as well as non-partisan policy groups which have joined their cause for a different reason stating that the limit on the age rule has not been that effective. It appears that drinking is now done behind closed doors and underground where responsible adults are not around to monitor the teenagers (Johnson, 2007).

Looking at the terrain of alcoholism more closely, a survey by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism or NIAAA from 2001 to 2002 revealed that there are 17.6 million American adults 18 years old and above who abuse alcohol or are alcohol dependent. The survey also revealed that men are more prone to be alcoholic than women, that alcohol abuse is more prevalent in Whites than in Hispanics, Blacks, and Asians, and that alcohol dependence is more prevalent among Native Americans, Hispanics, and Whites than among Asians (NIH News, 2004). A related study reveals that in 2003, males over 21 years old are also more likely than females to have first used alcohol before age 15. It also states that people who first used alcohol before age 15 are five times more likely to have reported alcohol dependence and abuse over the past year compared to people who first used alcohol at 21 years old or older. Today, 14 million adults over 21 are classified to have abused or depended on alcohol over the past year. Meanwhile, 13 million or 95 percent started using alcohol before age 21 (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2004). These results indicate that there is a correlation between age of first use of alcohol and the propensity to alcoholism.

For many, the statistics of students drinking before they are 21 remain as mere numbers until it hits home. Loopholes, laxity, and lip service enable us to condone youthful alcohol consumption. But for how long can we ignore the burden of guilt? If we are party to lowering the age limit of alcohol consumption in our city/town/community, we are guilty of abandoning our responsibility to our family and our right to a peaceful community free from alcoholism and the sickly trail of despondency that comes with it.

Currently, the United States seems to be one of the countries that have one of the highest drinking age limits. The current legal drinking age is set to 21 although this is a wise move for some the advocates and conservative people, it is, however, not as consistent as it turns out. Whatever good thing that was presupposed by several authorities before regarding the drinking age, it seems that the ones who are being affected seem to think otherwise. Today, the drinking binges that 18-year old college students experience are not only an indication that students will continually go out of their way to be able to purchase alcohol but it is also means that the legal drinking age should be changed and reverted back to 18 years old (Hanson).

There are several United States citizens who strongly disagree with the age limit of 21 as the legal drinking age most because it is quite inconsistent when one ponders about it. A citizen of the United States is given the chance to vote for his president when he turns 18 years old. That same citizen, if male, may also be forced to join the Selective Service with the possibility that they might get drafted. This same 18-year-old United States citizen will also be inclined to jury duty if the opportunity arises. This means that a United States citizen can have a hand in determining the outcome of another person’s natural born life, can wield a gun and go to war and can vote for who will rule his country and yet he is unable to purchase and consume alcohol. If the argument was to begin with this illustration, it would seem that there is something amiss here (Hanson).

For the legal drinking age to be set to 21, it is quite problematic for different universities and colleges because the students tend to purposefully hide the drinking of alcohol whereas if these people were given the liberty to drink alcohol, it would benefit the colleges and universities altogether. If the purchase and consumption of alcohol within universities would be allowed for students who are at least 18 years old, these colleges and universities would have an easier time regulating alcohol. This will then result in a better monitoring of alcohol use since the university will not have to worry about 19-year-olds posing as legal adults just to be able to purchase alcohol. This step is also hypothesized to cut down the alcohol-related deaths in colleges and universities since there will be a more accurate count of alcohol use within the school premises (Lower the U.S. Legal Drinking).

Researches reveal that six youths will die every day in non-driving alcohol-related causes, such as homicide, suicide, and drowning. These little horrors happen every day, every year. It would be tempting to shrug off drinking among students done secretly or within the school proximity as a rite of passage, but cold, hard statistics point out that it is not so. Students who experiment with alcohol are guaranteed to use it. In a study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in 2003, it was found out that high school seniors who tried alcohol-even those that tried once, about 91.3 percent are still drinking by the 12th grade. Disturbingly, of the high school students who have ever been drunk, 83.3 percent or over two million youths are still getting drunk by the 12th grade and individuals who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become alcohol dependent than those who begin drinking at age 21. The same study makes it clear that teen drinking is the number one source of adult alcoholism.

Drinking among the youths shows no sign of abating, according to the 2004 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 7,000 youths, all under 16 have their first drink of alcohol every day. Furthermore, alcohol serves as a gateway to drugs, as alcohol has been linked to substance abuse.


With this in mind, there is wisdom in keeping the minimum drinking age at 21.The experiment of lowering the minimum age to 18 years in the late 1960’s and early 70’s by some states proved to be a mistake. We must take note that during that period, the states documented a discernible rise of vehicular accidents involving youths. When the minimum age reverted to 21 years in the 1980’s, teen vehicular deaths dropped by as much as 28 percent. In hindsight, restricting access to alcohol to those who are over 21 years of age, along with strict implementation of existing laws continue to prove that it saves lives in a manner that is both effective and inexpensive. We may think that drinking is glamorous. Indeed the media bombard us with advertisements that portray it so. Often the image it creates is that the worst thing that can happen to us is a raging hangover. The stark and appalling reason for this is the alcohol industry uses advertisement that appeal to the youth, as most heavy and problem drinkers begin drinking before they reach age 21. This is aggravated by peer pressure as youths who have friends who drink, also take it at an earlier age. Nevertheless, high self-esteem, self-discipline, impulse control, and a sense of purpose enable youths to withstand peer pressure. Yes, this characteristic take guts, but nevertheless, true character is made as people exercise maturity in this issue.


  1. Hanson, D. The Legal Drinking Age Science vs. Ideology.
  2. Johnson, Alex.(2007). Debate on lower drinking age bubbling up. MSNBC.
  3. Lower the U.S. Legal Drinking Age to 18.
  4. National Institutes of Health News (2004). Alcohol Abuse Increases, Dependence Declines Across Decade. 
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2004). The National Survey on Drug Use and Health Report 2004. 

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