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The consumption of alcohol is a major passing time in American society. However, it is adolescents and young adults who are engaged in this activity most, which often results in such serious issues as assault cases, aggressive behaviors, and even alcohol-related accidents. This issue has evoked a lively discussion of whether the legal drinking age should be reduced or if the 21 years limitation should remain.
Teenagers across the country participate in illegal drinking, especially during the weekends. It is actually one of the most social activities among the youth in America. The issue of the legal drinking age there is a subject that is passionately discussed by most American citizens, with some of them calling for the legal drinking age to be lowered and others pushing for it to remain at 21. The few that wish for it to be lowered argue that it will encourage responsible drinking habits in safe environments, and that people aged 18 have the right to consume alcohol as legal adults. These people also believe that it is the responsibility of the parents to promote safe alcohol consumption. Alternatively, the opposing majority argues that it will give high school students an easier access to alcohol, and that keeping the 21 limit decreases traffic accidents, especially those caused by drunk driving. All U.S. states have their minimum drinking age set at 21.
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The issue affects the society in a significant way. The reports show that the percentage of college students aged between 18 and 24 who engage in binge drinking increase by about 8 percent within every thirty days, with a high percentage of people killed in crashes involving young drunk drivers (Wrye and Pruitt 73). This report shows that heavy drinking habits are common in college students, which causes problems in the society. The patterns of adolescents’ drinking are a major concern in the society because binge drinking contributes to high blood alcohol levels, as well as to deviations in coordination caused by intoxication (Flemming 52). This behavior has increased the cases of violent crimes in the society, resulting in high cases of insecurity. It has also contributed to a large number of school dropouts since alcohol consumption during adolescence affects the brain.
The groups primarily interested in this issue are the government, the society, and the youth. The society has influenced the issue by giving its opinions on the matter, and most people prefer to keep the legal age limit to avoid an even bigger number of youth being involved in alcohol consumption. The government has passed alcohol laws to ensure alcohol consumption is done in a responsible manner.
Still, since every decision has a consequence, the issue of lowering or not lowering the drinking legal age presents repercussions in regard to both sides. If the government chooses to lower the legal age, then a high percentage of the youth will engage in heavy alcohol use, resulting in binge drinking. However, if the government chooses to keep the legal drinking age as it is, the same youth will still engage in alcohol consumption, but in a secretive manner since they would be under the legal drinking age. Even if the government takes away the appeal of illegality, the American youth will not stop drinking precisely because they have the inclination to do so, regardless of the fact of alcohol legality.
Keeping the drinking age at 21 would be the best solution since it is evident that the ones most involved in excessive alcohol consumption are the ones aged between 18 and 24. It indicates that if the country allows these individuals to consume alcohol freely, there is the probability that they will overdo it, and the chances are, the number of cases of drunk driving will also increase, along with the accidents (Gruenewald et al. 1759). Allowing alcohol consumption at 18 would make drinking more common among the youth, and also more dangerous. Besides, countries without restrictions or those that have set the legal drinking age to 18 have a higher percentage of their youths drinking to the point of intoxication and then engaging in violent crimes like assault (Kypri et al. 299). Undoubtedly, such trend would also transpire in this country if the legal drinking age was lowered to 18.
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Secondly, lowering the drinking age can give the younger teenagers a much easier access to alcohol than they had when the legal drinking age was set at 24. Most college students under this legal age usually have easy access to alcohol, especially with the help of their older classmates and friends (Cintina 1). If the legal age was reduced, then not only underage college students, but also high scholars as well as middle scholars would have an easier access to alcohol through the courtesy of their older brothers and friends. Such a scenario would bring even more dangers than the ones evident now, when only the underage college students have access to alcohol.
It would also be unsafe if the legal drinking age was lowered. According to ErtanYörük and Yörük, young adults have the tendency to engage in risky sexual behaviors after consuming alcohol and are likely to drink more if granted the right to consume alcohol at the age of 18 (ErtanYörük and Yörük 134). Risky sexual activities are likely to result in unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, among other dangerous conditions. Besides, most bars sell alcohol to obviously intoxicated persons whereby about half of them have been arrested for drunk driving or were killed in alcohol-related crashes (Voas 1601). It indicates that if the state allows youths aged from 18 to 20 to legally access alcohol and even be able to go to bars for drinks, then the number of individuals caught up in alcohol-related accidents will increase. Hence, a minimum drinking age of 21 protects the health of people and saves their lives thought fewer cases of risky sexual behaviors and motor vehicle crashes.
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Alcohol consumption causes high morbidity and mortality rates among adolescents (Flemming 51). The brain continues to form throughout adolescence and since young people often combine binge drinking with other risky activities, there is a high risk of causing accidental injuries even to themselves, which makes the adolescent patterns of drinking a major concern (Dalvie et al. 12). Additionally, adolescent alcohol consumption can result in adverse psychosocial outcomes, including illegal substance abuse, mental illnesses, unsafe sex, and the increased risk of having a substance use disorder. These associations prove that alcohol exposure at an early age interferes with an adolescent’s brain development, which ultimately leads to poor adjustment with the older age.
When putting into consideration whether to lower the legal drinking age or not, the crucial issue is whether lowering it to 18 would reduce the cases of illegal alcohol consumption by adolescents. It is evident that adolescents consume alcohol and do so in large quantities, which results in other adverse effects produced on them and the society in general. If the legal age is lowered, it will double the negative effects that occur at the age of 21. Lowering the legal drinking age should not be an option — instead, the government should find other ways to deal with the many cases of adolescent binge drinking, such as public education and counseling, and they should add other measures to prevent it.
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