To drink or legally drink; that is the question

The current drinking age causes underage young adults to binge drink and consume alcohol in unsafe environments.

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The current drinking age causes underage young adults to binge drink and consume alcohol in unsafe environments.

Faith Gates, Managing and News Editor

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When you turn 18 in the United States you can vote, be in the army, buy a gun, get a tattoo, get married and buy cigarettes, but one thing you can’t do is drink alcohol. Let’s be honest: we all drank before we turned 21.

The current drinking age in America has caused teens to drink in unsafe and uncontrolled places and has led to more harm than good.

The drinking age wasn’t always 21, in fact, it was only a little more than 30 years ago that the drinking age changed to 21. The organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving lobbied the federal government hard to raise the drinking age to cut the rate of teen drunk driving, leading President Ronald Reagan to sign the Minimum Drinking Age Act in 1984, mandating all states raise their legal drinking age to 21 or suffer a 10 percent cut in their federal highway dollars.

This did not fix the problem.

Many in favor of the 21 drinking age believe that it’s beneficial because it lowered the fatality rate of teens who were drunk driving, but statistics show not only did the rate decrease two years before the drinking age changed, but it has also stayed generally the same since then. For example, in 1983 the number of alcohol related teen driving accidents was 24,635. Skip ahead to 1986, a couple years after the age changed, the number is 25,017 deaths.

Teens see drinking as a sort of “forbidden fruit.” This makes them more likely to drink, but also more likely to drink in unsafe environments. Keeping youth from drinking outside of licensed locations like restaurants or even their own home pushes them to drink at fraternities or house parties.

The Center for Disease Control found that 90 percent of all teens that drink alcohol binge drink, which can cause permanent harm to the brain. Studies show that the rate of underage teens being heavy drinkers or having more alcohol-related problems is increasing instead of decreasing.

Still, people think this age is protecting the youth and we can’t trust them if we lower the drinking age. But look at other countries. The United States has the highest drinking age recorded, meanwhile countries, like in Europe, have a drinking age of 18, or even unenforced.

Recent research published by the World Health Organization found that while teens in many European states, where the drinking age is 18 or younger, have more drinking occasions per month, they have fewer dangerous, intoxication occasions than Americans.

These teens are being entrusted with alcohol while they are younger and yes, they are human and will take advantage of that age by drinking. But because it is legal and they know they can do it anytime, they do not binge drink or drink to intoxication as Americans do.

One in 10 drinking occasions for Europeans ends in intoxication, while for Americans the ratio is over five in 10.

When I studied abroad in France, I found these stats to be true. One of the first nights I had dinner with my homestay family, the 10-year-old boy I lived with went to the fridge, grabbed a bottle of champagne, corked it himself, and proceeded to pour himself and everyone else at the table a drink. His mom then told me about how they let their kids drink there and then when they are older, they don’t go crazy when they can finally drink. I witnessed this in the bars and just walking around.

If you only tell a kid drinking is bad and never to try it, honestly, they’re going to try it the first time it’s offered to them.

You become an adult at the age of 18 in America and if we don’t even give teens the opportunity to be responsible, they will never have the chance to learn and mature. If you want people to start acting like adults, you have to start treating them like adults.

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