Alcohol is addictive. It is mind altering. It is dangerous, especially when abused. At what age does it become appropriate to allow people to make the choice to use it or not?
Multiple states including Wisconsin, Florida, Vermont, Missouri, and now Oregon have considered lowing the state legal age for alcohol consumption from 21 to 18. Some experts believe the change could reduce binge drinking. Others believe it could put our youth at more risk for abuse than ever.
In Oregon, some university presidents have signed on to a federal initiative urging legislators to reduce the drinking age. The change is driven largely by alcohol abuse in the university system. Universities have tried to educate students about responsible party hosting, the psychological, physical, and emotional risks of underage drinking, and about academic, physical, and legal consequences of making poor choices regarding alcohol use and abuse. Numbers of alcohol related issues have not changed much for all that effort.
Research shows that more than 40% of college students report at least one symptom of alcohol abuse. One study indicated that more than 500,000 students at 4-year universities suffer injuries each year related to drinking. Disturbingly, about 1,700 die from such incidents. BIG PROBLEM!
An Associated Press analysis found that 157 people aged 18-23 drank themselves to death between 1999 and 2005. These numbers are thought to be caused mostly by binge drinking at parties. Social pressure and the desire to be an adult drive the trend. Do you think lowering the age, making it more okay to consume alcohol in whatever setting the user chooses would help?
The drinking age was not always set at 21. It was raised to that age more than 20 years ago to eliminate young adult alcohol abuse. To evaluate the effectiveness of the law, some claim we should just consider whether people under 21 are drinking more or less than they were 20 years ago. Clearly, teens are still drinking. Others believe the evaluation of the law should be in looking at deaths and dangers related to abuse of the substance. It is notable that alcohol related fatalities have been reduced since raising the drinking age to 21.
Some compare the current age restriction to prohibition, in that it forces drinking to be “underground” where it cannot be regulated or controlled. The supporters of the measure argue that if drinking was legal for all college students, they would not have to hide and they could feel safe calling 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency. Others argue that legalizing alcohol for all teens would cause more students to experiment, while some abstain with the current system.
When interviewed through a Gallup poll, 77 percent of Americans recently said that they would oppose lowering the drinking age.
Do you think lowering the drinking age would reduce dangerous binge drinking, alcohol related car crashes, alcohol abuse, or alcohol related death or would it allow more teens to experiment with the very addictive and altering drug causing more trouble?