Is Drinking Worth it?


By: William Dong

Copy edited by: Sean Cotnam and Brett Levenstein

Research Edited by: Brett Levenstein

Format edited by: Arthur Carlton-Jones

Should the U.S. government raise the drinking age?

One of the most debated topics within the current society is what the legal drinking age limit in the U.S. should be. Adolescent drinking is considered to have both positive and negative effects by various groups. Both teenagers and adults support that it possesses only negative effects on a person, but many may also support the other extreme. Drinking is used as a social lubricant and teenagers support lowering the age limit because they tend to rebel and experiment, but what they don’t know is the details of the effects alcohol can have on a person and those around them. In the worst-case scenario, alcohol could lead to traffic accidents, health problems, and even death. Should the drinking age be lowered? Or in fact be raised?

Why Should the Drinking Age Be Higher?

Teenagers tend to make questionable decisions since their brains are not fully developed. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, the rationale part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until she is 25 years old or so, which makes young adults vulnerable to irreversible mistakes while under the influence. [1]

The irresponsibility of young adults with such a dangerous substance can lead to both short term and long term health issues.[2] Alcohol can result in addiction, brain damage, diseases, and even death.[3] Binge Drinking is extremely common within teenagers. The CDC states that alcohol can cause immediate effects like injuries due violence and accidents, as well as miscarriages and still births. The long-term effects of drinking include high blood pressure, learning and memory problems, depression and anxiety.[4] The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration establishes that “underage drinking is linked to 189,000 emergency room visits by people under the age of 21.”[5]

Irresponsible adolescent drinking can lead to traffic accidents and fatalities. Alcohol can cause confusion and a loss of coordination and alertness. This makes driving an extremely dangerous task. [4] During the summer going into my senior year at Wootton High School, the quarterback at our school who I knew personally was in a car with 3 other kids after they had been drinking at a typical high school party. They were speeding and swerved off the road, killing two of the teens in the car instantly while the driver and one other passenger survived. Drinking and driving ruins lives and is not something that should be taken lightly.

Why Not?

There are of course many arguments that support the drinking age to stay the same or be lowered. Teenagers tend to go through a phase of rebellion, where grey matter in the brain which processes thought and memory is not fully developed, so they end up making decisions that a regular adult would not.[6] Lowering the drinking age could help teens drink more responsibly under the supervision of adults and decrease the amount of tragedies.

Many argue that teens under the age of 18 should have the right to drink since teens older than 18 are responsible enough to vote, join the military, and even purchase tobacco products. People advocate that if the government views 18 year olds as being capable of fighting for their country and deciding their country’s leadership, they should be able to responsibly consume alcohol. Tobacco products are also considered just as addictive and harmful to a person as alcohol. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States which is one in every five deaths. [7] Furthermore, even though tobacco is just as addictive as alcohol, the CDC establishes that it causes more deaths each year than alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, HIV, and firearm-related incidents combined.[6] In theory, if tobacco is considered more dangerous than alcohol, then it would not make sense for the drinking age to be higher.

The Bottom Line:

Lowering or keeping the same drinking age could account for more teens drinking responsibly, but also could lead to more tragedies and health problems. If the U.S. government wanted to make the country a safer environment, the drinking age should be raised. Adolescents will then be older and more responsible, as their brains become more fully developed and aware of the risks of abusing alcohol.

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