Alcohol: The Legal Drinking Age

Changing the drinking age to 18 has created a global interest and fight among young adults. Young adults are adamant about lowering the legal drinking age because 18 is when teens are no longer minors. It would allow for more safety among college students. At the same time, believers of drinking argue that the legal age of 21 is helpful in cases of protecting 18-year old’s from overdrinking and having better health. However, there are many other ways these tasks can be accomplished without the need for the legal age to be 21.

The underage drinkers’ penalty results in harm that disrupt their everyday life, and thus the lawful drinking age should be lowered to 18. When these young people are arrested, they face the consequences such as fines, community service punishment, revocation of their driving licenses, and even jail terms (Crewe et al. 18). Individuals above 21 found drinking are not subjected to these punishments. If these underage drinkers are students, they can face additional penalties from their schools, affecting their future careers. These penalties may affect their mental health, and even some may decide to commit suicide to evade the stresses accompanying their sentence. Reducing the legal drinking age to 18 would help reduce suicide cases related to underage drinking sentences.

Underage drinking penalty results in heavy economic losses to different people. This punishment includes suspension, probation, loss of financial aid, and even expulsion. Bar owners and workers undergo severe penalty if underage drinking occurs (Milam et al. 221). Their liquor license may be suspended, and even they could spend years in jail. The bar workers could also lose their employment if they are found serving alcohol to the minors. Some underaged individuals go to bar not to drink but to carry out different activities such as watching football. When caught in the bar, they are forced to undertake tests such as invasive blood tests against their will. Thus, lowering the legitimate drinking age to 18 would help reduce people’s punishment due to underage drinking.

Despite the legal drinking being raised to 21, it has not saved many lives. Raising the legal age to 21 years has no impact on long-term alcohol-related deaths. Some countries with strict liquor intake policies than the USA have worse long-term liquor intake-related problems (Heba). Meanwhile, nations with lenient alcohol restriction rules than the USA record fewer long-term alcohol intake problems. The most common argument that individuals use to guard the drinking age is that it saves lives. However, raising the legal drinking age to 21 has not led to a significant decrease in the mortalities caused by drunk driving. Raising the age only moved the drink-related driving deaths from the age group 18-20 to 21-21. The actual risk for drinking and driving is personality, not being under 21 years.

The current drinking age leads to lousy drinking habits among the underage. The drinking age of 21 ensures that those below the legal age drink in secrecy. Secret drinking is psychologically unhealthy, causing anxiety and depression as underage individuals become more worried about being caught. These underage people engage in binge drinking to reduce the episodes that can lead to them being arrested (Kuntsche et al. 978). They may also consume more alcohol to remove any trace evidence that can make them get apprehended. These underages may not be sure when they will consume alcohol again and thus excessively use the scarce opportunity they get to drink excessively.

The individuals under 21 are left with inexperienced drinkers with no friends and family to watch them. The lack of close support and monitoring, combined with inexperience, renders them at the risk of sexual assault, drunk driving, or unprotected sex (Schwarz et al. 47). Alcohol can impair the judgment of these under 21 individuals, and thus they need to be under protection from the people they know. These minors may even die as they are inexperienced, but having a responsible person can guide them on appropriate drinking patterns. Fewer negative consequences are likely to happen to a drinker under monitoring by reliable friends and family members. Drinking in secrecy lowers the chance of having a person who can closely watch.

Increased enforcement of the underage drinking law makes things worse, not better. A poorly enforced law encourages people to violate it and not take it seriously, but highly enforcing it makes things worse (Heba). Highly enforcing the law would lead to arresting more people, some of which may be innocent, thus disrupting more lives and creating more criminals. Arresting under 21 drinkers and putting them in jail could predispose them to more violent forms of crimes as other inmates would teach them unacceptable conduct. Prison can cause long-term consequences to these minors, even if they are just behind bars for a short period.

Once an individual turns 18, they are recognized as legally being an adult. Through this freedom, an individual is accorded many responsibilities, one of them being personal decision-making. In some nations, even 18-year-olds are recruited to join military services, and if they can fight to protect their countries, they should be allowed to take alcohol (Heba). The probability of dying while serving in a military force is higher than when engaging in alcohol intake. Some 18-year-olds are already employed and earn money that they can use to engage in their desires. Limiting an individual from enjoying his hard-earned money would be unfair; thus, the law should allow everyone above 18 to take alcohol. Other 18-year-olds already have families they are raising, and hence a person capable of raising a family should be legally allowed to take alcohol.

There is more protection for people at risk than underage drinkers. The attendants will not inquire if the person taking alcohol is pregnant; alcohol intake in pregnancy has a potential risk for teratogenicity (Dejong et al. 143). The attendants will only ask for the individual’s age; they do not ask for the history of liquor intake or an individual having a chronic illness. Therefore, the attendants will give alcohol to individuals with liver cirrhosis, congestive heart failure, pancreatitis, and gastritis. These groups are at higher risk of having complications related to alcohol risk than those under 21 who could be denied to consume alcohol. The servers will not ask the person if they have ever been convicted of an alcohol-related offense such as child abuse, sexual assault, or drunk driving. These restrictions lead to limitations on the freedom that the under 21 should enjoy as adults.

Society regards everyone above the age of 21 right to drink even if the liquor intake leads to bad decisions. The drinking in the underage is mainly driven by curiosity, while the adults are primarily related to coping or escaping the stress they face (Heba). Middle-aged individuals are often faced with midlife crises and thus are more likely to engage in drinking behavior. If older people truly mean public safety, they would sacrifice to quit alcohol intake, not pile the pressure on the individuals under 21. It is hard for a drunkard parent to advise his below 21 children to avoid intake of alcohol. Such parents should sacrifice to lead as an example to their children. The drinking age is not entirely focused on safety but an imposition of sacrifices to young people. These adults are too selfish and proud of having these sacrifices rendered to them.

Alcohol is not worse for younger people as compared with other legal drugs. Some nations, such as Canada, have allowed more harmful drugs, such as marijuana, to be sold to people aged 18 (Cox 207). The effects of alcohol intake on the body are well studied and documented. When often taken, some medications such as NSAIDs and antidepressants lead to harmful effects on the body. NSAIDs may cause liver problems, pancreatitis, and gastric ulcers; these are similar problems that alcohol may cause to an individual. Minimal alcohol drinking does not damage the body, as the liver can degenerate. Intake of alcohol in small volumes also helps reduce LDLs, which have potential health impacts, such as causing cardiac-related diseases. There is no medically proven reason alcohol should be sold over the counter to individuals above 21 years and not those under the recommended age. Some drugs approved by the FDA have the same dosage range for individuals between 18 to 21 and those above 21. It thus shows no difference in liquor intake’s effect on a 21 and 18-year-old.

Alcohol drinking among young people is not as deadly as in older people. Underage drinking should not be accorded a bad reputation. Most alcohol-related poisoning incidences happen in older people (Heba). It could indicate that the younger drinkers are less vulnerable to the risks of alcohol compared to the older drinkers. Young people are also unfairly charged for drunk driving; most individuals aged 18 to 21 do not have driving licenses. Some who have driving permits choose not to drive or do not have the opportunities as most do not have cars. It thus means that drunk driving for underage does not apply to most of the under 21.

In conclusion, there is no significant harm in making the legal drinking age 18. The punishment that those under 21 individuals face when caught taking alcohol affects their daily lives. They may end up being discontinued from school and even lose their sponsors; this affects their mental health. When caught selling alcohol to minors, the bar owners’ punishments have disastrous consequences for those below 21 persons and impact the nation economically. The people at high risk of effects of alcohol, such as pregnant mothers and people with chronic illness, are given alcohol, while the individuals below the age of 21 with reduced risk are denied. A person above 18 is an adult and thus is entitled to decide their choices; therefore, they should be permitted to take alcohol freely. The alcohol-intake restrictions among the youth will eventually lead to poor alcohol intake behaviors among those below 21. They will drink in secrecy or engage in heavy liquor intake within a session to reduce the chance of being arrested. Therefore, the legal alcohol intake age should be 18 years.

Works Cited

Cox, Chelsea. “The Canadian Cannabis Act Legalizes and Regulates Recreational Cannabis Use in 2018.” Health Policy, vol. 122, no. 3, 2018, pp. 205–9.

Crewe, Ben, et al. Life Imprisonment from Young Adulthood: Adaptation, Identity and Time. Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.

Dejong, Katherine, et al. “Alcohol Use in Pregnancy.” Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, vol. 62, no. 1, 2019, pp. 142–55.

Heba, Dani. “Lowering the Legal US Drinking Age Just Makes Sense.” The Ticker, 2021, Web.

Kuntsche, Emmanuel, et al. “Binge Drinking: Health Impact, Prevalence, Correlates and Interventions.” Psychology & Health, vol. 32, no. 8, May 2017, pp. 976–1017.

Milam, Adam J., et al. “Evaluation of a Local Ordinance to Prevent Any Underage Purchases in Liquor Stores: The Need for Enforcement.” Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, vol. 82, no. 2, 2021, pp. 219–27.

Schwarz, Jill, et al. “Sexual Assault on College Campuses: Substance Use, Victim Status Awareness, and Barriers to Reporting.” Building Healthy Academic Communities Journal, vol. 1, no. 2, 2017, pp. 45–60.