Why Should The Drinking Age Stay At 21 Essay

Alex Eich
ENG 102
Sharon Ross
Research Paper- Rough Draft

The United States has a minimum drinking age of 21. The minimum legal drinking age of 21 has proven to save lives and reduce negative effects in people who consume alcohol legally. Compared to other countries has proven a safe drinking age. In addition to all of the positive effects of having this law set in place, there are plenty of ways parents can prevent their adolescent from consuming alcohol.

The evidence of the minimum drinking age of 21 saving young people's lives is overwhelmingly true. Congress refused to give funding for highways to any state that did not comply with raising the minimum drinking age to 21 back in 1984. (Seaman, "frequently asked questions"

Since the minimum legal drinking age was raised from 18 to 21 in 1984 there has been a twenty percent decrease in fatal accidents amongst younger people. The strategy of congress refusing highway dollars to those states was enough to make them all adhere to setting a higher minimum drinking age. On July 17, 1984 President Ronald Reagan under pressure from groups such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and other lobbyists, signed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act. Signing this document effectively set the national drinking age at 21 years old.

The states that have the strictest laws against using fake identification to purchase alcohol show a direct correlation to reduced alcohol related fatalities among people 21 and under. An estimate by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that increasing the minimum legal drinking age to 21 has saved the lives of about 27,000 young adults age 18-20. Approximately 5,000 people under the age of 21 die each year because of alcohol related accidents; of those 5,000 kids 1,700 of them are college students. 1,600 of those killed annually are from alcohol related homicides, and 300 suicides. About 190,000 people under the age of 21 visited the emergency room for alcohol related incidents in 2008 alone.

The negative effects of consuming alcohol before the age of 21 are proven and well documented. Binge drinking is a major problem with younger people in general but more specifically on college campuses. It is not necessarily that one who starts drinking before the age of 21 will drink more often later in life, but they will drink to excess after having the first drink. The chances of one becoming a binge drinker later in life are higher for those to start drinking before their 21st birthday.

Those who did not attend college but did start to consume alcohol before the age of 21 have a higher chance of becoming a binge drinker later in life than those who attended college. "Binge drinking on college campuses is a very serious problem," says Plunk. "But it's also important not to completely forget about young people who aren't on college campuses. In our study, they had the greatest risk of suffering the long-term consequences linked to lower drinking ages." -ANDREW PLUNK PhD Statistically the younger a person starts drinking the more susceptible they are to alcoholism later in life shows it can be a dangerous decision to not wait until you are 21.

The human brain is not fully developed until a person is in their early to mid twenties, therefore drinking sooner than this can be detrimental to the brain. (Hanson, "Drinking Alcohol Damages Teenagers' Brains"). Drinking alcohol directly affects your cerebellum negatively. The cerebellum controls motor skills, balance and other complex motions of the body, and when a young person drinks before this part of the brain is developed these negative effects can be permanent. "Research indicates that the human brain continues to develop into a person's early twenties and that exposure of the developing brain to alcohol may have long-lasting effects on intellectual capabilities." David J Hanson PhD

People who drink before they are 21 years old are also more likely to take part in risky behavior such as having unprotected sex, having multiple sexual partners, driving a motor vehicle under the influence, and taking other risks they normally would not when sober. This results in a large number of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases among young people. The chance of sexual assault taking place when using alcohol increases greatly, whether it is just the victim, the offender or both under the influence of alcohol. Women have a harder time completing complex tasks when they drink at an early age, where as men have a difficult time paying attention.

More negative effects of drinking before 21 years old is the higher chance of being violent or being involved in violent activities, and suicidal thoughts. 1 out of 3 suicides by young people aged 18-24 can be associated with alcohol abuse. Alcohol is a depressant and when consumed before the brain is fully developed magnifies these effects.

When compared to other countries, the United States has a fairly high minimum drinking age, and it shows that it works in a positive way. New Zealand lowered the minimum drinking age from 20 to 18 and found out that lowering the age has its consequences. They saw in increase in disorderly conduct charges and injuries amongst young people under the influence of alcohol. ("Position on Minimum Legal Drinking Age").

European countries have a far worse problem when it comes to binge drinking or drinking to intoxication. Europeans typically have their first taste of alcohol at about the average age of 14 years old (CITE THIS). Although they are not pressured into drinking at a young age, it is more accessible and acceptable for young Europeans to consume an alcoholic beverage at a young age. 10% of Europeans are linked to early death or bad health because of drinking alcohol. The relatively inexpensive prices of lower grade alcoholic beverages are a key contributor in why young people in these European countries drink to excess. British teens drink the most of any of their European neighbors.

In Britain a recent study has found that females are binge drinking to excess more than their male counterparts and that it is now more socially acceptable for females to drink to get drunk. ."The claim that Europeans learn to drink moderately and safely in a family setting has been used by many in the United States to argue for lowering the drinking age," But our research shows that premise is a myth. Easy access to alcohol seems to allow young people to drink heavily and in a risky fashion, whether in Europe or the United States. Raising the drinking age in the United States has been an extremely effective public health and safety policy. Based on our research, weakening that policy would be a serious mistake." Joel GRUBE

In the United States there are certain circumstances under which a minor can legally consume alcohol before the age of 21. Some reasons for example are parental consent, religious, medical, and educational purposes. 43 out of the 50 states have a scenario in which it is legal for a minor to consume alcohol. An example of this would be a minor taking communion at church, or having a beer under the supervision of a parent at home. These exemptions from the minimum legal drinking age are some ways that minors can begin drinking at a young age, and become accustom to the effects of alcohol.

There are many reasons adolescents choose to consume alcohol before the law permits. For some it is to fit into a group or gang and they feel like there is no other choice but to drink in order to fit in. Others do it because they want to escape or relax on the weekend or even after school, experimentation and to feel older are also big reasons why they drink. 42 percent of teens say that they feel like drinking is ok because they see it in TV shows and media. Early teenagers 12-17 that view "R" rated movies at least 3 times a month are 7 times more likely to consume alcohol than those who do not. Boredom is another factor in adolescents using alcohol; some kids cannot stand being alone and have a hard time keeping themselves occupied while still craving an adrenaline rush.

Teens are also using alcohol as an escape and to dull the pains of everyday life and or family troubles. Alcohol helps these kids feel oblivious to the pain or just mellowed out enough to not have to worry about their troubles. For many angry teenage kids alcohol is the perfect drug of choice because it allows them to behave in an aggressive manner. Growing up in a family with parents that regularly drink alcohol sets the tone for kids to think that it is perfectly normal and ok to drink even if they are not of age. "They're not sipping-they're gulping it down like soda," says Schaefer. "The kids I see tell me they drink every weekend, at least four times a month. And they get drunk each time." -Dick Schaefer

Risk taking is something adolescents will do because their brains are not fully developed until at least mid twenties. These kids associate drinking alcohol with taking a risk and seeking out new and possibly dangerous situations. The risky behavior and thrills an adolescent gets by consuming alcohol is almost never recognized as having any consequences that could come with it. The expectancies an adolescent has about alcohol will also determine whether or not they will choose to drink. If a young person think that with drinking alcohol comes good times and relaxation, they are more likely to drink than those with negative expectancies about alcohol. Before the age of nine most kids think of alcohol as a bad thing, something that can hurt you, by the time they turn thirteen to fourteen those expectancies shift to positive. The kids who drink the most are also the ones who emphasize the positive aspects of alcohol, and as expected the ones who do not drink at all or very little would emphasize the negative aspects.

Reasons a young person may be able to handle drinking larger amounts of alcohol than an adult can be found by looking at the difference between the developed brains of an adult to that of a maturing adolescent brain. The positive part of alcohol consumption is what adolescents are most sensitive to, such as being at ease in a social setting. Young people with certain personality characteristics are more vulnerable to alcohol use and dependence than others. Those who are disruptive, have conducts problems, aggressive, depressed, anxious or withdrawn are more at risk for having a problem with alcohol. Difficulty avoiding harm or harmful situations and rebelliousness in general are also show to increase the chance of becoming alcohol dependent. Hereditary factors are also huge in determining whether or not a child will become and alcoholic. Those kids who have any close relatives who are alcoholics are between four and ten times more likely to become an alcoholic, than a kid that has no close relatives with an alcohol issue. Children of alcoholics are more likely to start drinking at younger age and progress their drinking habits earlier than those who are not born into an alcoholic family. Studies have shown gene predisposition becoming an alcoholic is stronger later in adolescence than early on. Scientists have found specific areas of chromosomes in alcoholic families that correlate with being an alcoholic, but genes do not necessarily tell the whole story on why kids start to drink.

The environmental aspect is another reason adolescents may choose to drink before they are legally allowed. For example parents who view drinking alcohol in a favorable way, having parties and people over for drinks are setting an example for their kids. Media and advertising for alcohol is everywhere, and is also to blame for kids drinking so early. A parent cannot take their kid to a baseball game without being inundated with advertisements for beer and other alcoholic beverages. Even driving down the freeway kids will see billboards for alcoholic beverages, and they are also all over television. The environments these kids are growing up in make it seem like it is ok to drink alcohol.

Preventing underage drinking during the developmental timeline is the most important thing a parent can do. When kids are going through periods of rapid transition and cultural and social factors are strongly influencing their behaviors, this may be the best time to try to intervene. Researchers have yet to track a single gene or track that can predict the use of alcohol later in life. It is the parents and environment that have the most influence on whether or not an adolescent will use alcohol, but if alcoholism is in the genes the child is more than likely going to use alcohol.

The United States has a minimum drinking age of 21. The minimum legal drinking age of 21 has proven to save lives and reduce negative effects in people who consume alcohol legally. Compared to other countries has proven a safe drinking age. In addition to all of the positive effects of having this law set in place, there are plenty of ways parents can prevent their adolescent from consuming alcohol.


Three categories I can improve on my rough draft:
1. The wording of my sentences can be less awkwardly put and smoother flowing.
2. I can improve on the strength of my thesis statement.
3. I need to cite my sources better throughout the paper.

Keeping the Drinking at 21
In the world today, the majority of countries has a legal drinking age of eighteen or lower. Unlike many other countries, the United States has a minimum legal drinking age of twenty-one. Although our laws acknowledge that at age eighteen one is an adult who possess sufficient maturity and judgment to operate a motor vehicle, serve in the military, perform jury duty, sign a contract or even get married, those same laws deny that same adult the right to purchase, possess or consume alcohol.

And, while this is true, alcohol is already an easy accessible drug that can facilitate not only several detrimental health effects, but it can also create deadly or harmful events for the individual and others which is why the legal drinking age should remain at twenty-one. In the United States many ague that is ridiculous that the legal age to get married, to vote, fight in a war is legally eighteen, but drinking is still set at twenty-one. However, there are laws such as adopting a child or gambling is set at twenty-one and renting a car is set at the age of twenty five (“Drinking Age”). However, even if the law for drinking was the only law that was set at twenty-one, many of the laws that are set at eighteen are not harmful to one’s or others well-being or health. While some say that there are many health benefits to drinking such as having a glass of wine to improve one’s heart or reduce the risk of diabetes if drinking is minimal, that complete opposite effect can happen if one where to consistently over drink alcohol (“Nutrition and healthy eating”). In addition to the health risk, a person’s can suffer long term health effects, that can range from problems with cardiovascular problems, liver diseases, cancers risk, as well psychological and social problems as well. And though many might say that these effects can happen to anyone, that is true, and that but those who start drinking at younger ages are more statically likely to become chronic users of alcohol, and chronic users are more likely to develop problems in these areas.

Many might say that a beer or two is a great way to relax after a long day; however when one does the commonly especially at a young age it can have many permanent effect to the brain. For instances, a typical human brain is not fully developed until a woman is about twenty-three and a man about twenty-five (“Fact Sheets- Alcohol Use and Health”). The primary area that is still growing when an adult is eighteen is the prefrontal cortex which is initially responsible for decision-making, emotional regulation, memory formation, planning and organization (“Mouse Party “). When people drink alcohol, the chemicals that come from alcohol are going straight to a person’s brain. Once those chemical arrive to the brain they basically stop the transfer key chemicals, glutamate and GABA, which makes the brain slow down because they are not getting the chemicals they need. The primary area of the brain where alcohol stops they processes of both glutamate and GABA are found in the prefrontal cortex (“Mouse Party “). This process can explain why people often lose memory of their wild night of fun, or they are more likely to participate in more high risk and irresponsible behavior. When a underage person drinks, their brain could very well suffer irreparable damage that can result in greater vulnerability to addiction and alcoholism, dangerous risk-taking behavior, reduced decision-making ability, memory loss, depression, violence and suicide(“Drinking Age”), (“Mouse Party”).

Many argue that there are many countries with a lower drinking age than the United States. For example many European countries have their ages at eighteen some as a low as sixteen. While this is true, it doesn’t mean that European countries do have problem that have steamed from under aged drinking. For instance, many European countries have worse problems with underage drunkenness, injury, rape, and school problems due to alcohol (“Drinking Age”). l. Not to mention that they have a higher proportion of kids and young adults drinking than the United States. In addition it was should that many more alcohol related health concerns in places with a higher access to alcohol. In fact, studies have shown that when an age group has access to something such as alcohol, the young age group will have easier access to alcohol, so if the drinking age was legally lowered it mean easier access to high school and middle children (“Fact Sheets- Alcohol Use and Health”). Even though there are many laws that prevent underage drinking there are many who still have access to it. In fact statistics have shown that over eighty percent of high school students said that alcohol was either “very easy” or “fairly easy” to obtain (“Fact Sheets- Alcohol Use and Health”). In addition, reports have shown that over forty percent of high school seniors have admitted to drinking in the last thirty days, not to mention over eighty-seven percent have admitted to at least having one drink in their life time (Fell).

In addition many senior also admitted to gaining access to alcohol through fake identification cards. Also stating that they were also fairly easy to make or gain access to. So, question is does the drinking age need to be lower. If so many underage people have least tried alcohol, where is the real debate? In addition, many states actually have loop holes around the federal mandate that prohibits drinking to those who are underage (“Drinking Age”). For example, there are over twenty-five states that allow underage drinking in instance where religion plays a factor (“Drinking Age”). In addition there are exceptions for education and as well as if alcohol is consumed on private residents where in the supervision of an adult. Therefore, with fake-id and the option in many states to drinking the drinking age really does not need to be lower. Some may point out there are still drunk drivers out there and that are even more drunk driver arrest today than before they act of 1984 which set an age limit to drinking (Fell). While this is very true, many fail to point out that there is more support and police involvement to prevent drunk driving.

For instance, many organizations such as MADD (mothers against drunk driving) have become key players in gaining support and encouraging more regulation of under the influence to driving. Many states have also lowered the alcohol intake that a person can consume before they are considered unsafe to drive (“Drinking Age”). For example, in California the real drunk driving limit is .08 blood toxicity levels, but even if a person is below a .08, but they are still above .01 then that individual is still considered under the influence and they are still given a ticket (Fell). In addition to the dangers of the roads for that are associated with drinking and driving. In reality with the laws that have been instilled car accidents related to drinking and driving have been reduced. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that MLDA 21decreased the number of fatal traffic accidents for 18- to 20-year-olds by 13% and saved approximately 27,052 lives from 1975-2008. On a related note, 76% of bars have sold alcohol to obviously intoxicated patrons, and about half of drivers arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) or killed as alcohol-involved drivers in traffic crashes did their drinking at licensed establishments (“Drinking Age”).

Therefore, while some may argue that people might have easy access and the minimum drinking age should be lowered it is necessary to look at the statistics and observe that the drinking age being at twenty-one is important to maintain as it helps save lives. In conclusion, while there are pros to consuming alcohol such as improving one’s heart or risk for serious diseases as well the right of passage to one’s mark of adulthood. Alcohol still possesses a great risk to the underage person who is drinking and others. There are not only serious long term health effects that are significantly correlated with one starting to drink before the age of twenty-one, but the legal drinking is a law that has substantially prevent the loss of live since it was enacted. Furthermore, while there are other laws that allowed at eighteen it is important to understand that many of those liberties are not at the risk of one’s health, and there are many other liberties as well that are not granted until the age of twenty-one and in some cases twenty-five. Therefore legal alcohol consumption should remain at the age of twenty-one for it can be not only detrimental to one’s health, but the rest of society.

Works Cited
Fell, James. “An Examination of the Criticisms of the Minimum Legal Drinking Age 21 Laws in the United States from a Traffic-safety Perspective.”www.udetc.org. Nonpartisan charity , 23 09 2012. Web. 9 Sep 2013. .

“Fact Sheets- Alcohol Use and Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC , 30` 08 2013. Web. 9 Sep 2013. .

“Drinking Age.” Procon.org. Nonpartisan charity , 06 08 2013. Web. 9 Sep 2013. .

“Mouse Party .” Genetic Science Learning Center. University of Utah, n.d. Web. 9 Sep 2013. .

“Nutrition and healthy eating.” http://www.mayoclinic.com/. Nonpartisan charity , 11 03 2011. Web. 9 Sep 2013. .

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