Today around 11% of alcohol in the United States is consumed by kids ages 13-20 and 90% of that drinking is binging which is viewed as five drinks or more within a drinking period. In fact drinking has become more popular with youth than adults. It has become a sport where you try outdo another, where games like beer pong and rage cage have gained national popularity. Drinking has been put n dangerous places making it a possible futile activity. By increasing the legal drinking age to 21 in the United States people have said it reduces traffic fatalities and alcohol-related accidents while keeping alcohol out of the hands of teens, whose brains are still developing. Although these are correct, alcohol related deaths in the teen category have soared. In the 1970s and early 80s alcohol related incidents were increasing within youths and the government needed to do something about it. In 1984, National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed. This meant that each state had its own right to make a legal drinking age, but if a state did not raise it to 21 they would take away funding. An organization called Mothers Against Drunk Driving led the charge after traffic fatalities rose since teenagers were driving across borders to drink and getting on accidents on the way home. They looked for a nationwide answer so there could be no loopholes. After the act was passed traffic fatalities dropped by nearly 60% and have stayed consistently lower than they were in the 70s. This could also be because of evolution in cars with things like airbags and seatbelts to protect from accidents. Through the states it is easy to say raising the drinking age was a smart thing to do. While it is evident that alcohol presents dangers and keeping it out of impulsive teenagers hands is ideal, that kind of dream is practical. In Fact if you dive deeper into the subject you see that the raising of the legal drinking age creates more danger down the road. According to a NHTSA study, the largest number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities occurred among 21 year-olds, followed by 22 and 23 year olds. Twice as many 21 year olds as 18 year-olds were involved in alcohol-related traffic fatalities in that year. The drinking age has just postponed fatalities not stopped them. For every 18,19, and 20 year old life saved, a 21,22, and 23 year old die. There are also three factors have combined to the decline of driving fatalities from alcohol not relating to the raising of the legal drinking age, safer cars, higher awareness by drivers of all ages, greater utilization of a designated driver. Teens have actually lowered their chances of fatality by thinking through situations and finding a designated driver, or sleeping over at a friends house, not because they were older than 21.  

Most teenagers are going to drink at some point through high school or college, but theres is an idea known as the “forbidden fruit” as child that plays a huge role in underage drinking. As kids, parents try to shield their children away from the dangers of alcohol. The idea of protection from bad substance has been actually counterproductive, and created an exciting mystery with alcohol, instead of the harsh truth. There is an idea placed in kids head that this forbidden fruit like substance, that makes a person appealing mature and sociable. This leads to consumption in unsafe amounts in unsafe places, without any adults knowing about the consumption. The forbidden fruit has become a rotten apple. The non supervised drinking has lead to more mental health issues for young kids than seen before, an alcohol has become a scapegoat for impulse decisions.  The main contributors to alcohol consumption are actually  lack of confidence, pressure from outside factors, self medication to make you feel good, and a lack of knowledge on the substance itself. Since alcohol is a depressant it disrupts the brains balance, affecting our thoughts, feelings and actions. Since most teenagers binge drink, the more alcohol consumed, the more the brain starts to be affected. Although pleasure may begin while drinking, negative actions may ensue when you drink too much. This leads to depression and anxiety later in life. You become dependant on alcohol and although there is a misconception alcohol is relaxing it lowers serotonin which makes impulsive decisions more likely. It is not drinking that is harming teenagers, but it is binge drinking that is doing the real harm. Binge drinking hurts the chemistry bringing all types of dangers, and makes kids to believe the decisions they are making are not harmful which might possibly lead to self harm. This is what leads to deaths. If alcohol were legal for 18 year olds and classes were taught where kids learned about fatalities, developing drinking habits, and how to make low risk choices. Binge drinking would be less of a problem, and safety while drinking would a be a priority. More importantly it creates self awareness to why you are drinking, and can possibly lead people to face their real problems without alcohol, and using alcohol more responsibly.  

Sources: http://mentalfloss.com/article/19437/why-drinking-age-21https://www.chooseresponsibility.org/legal_age_21/https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/mental-health/alcohol-and-mental-health/

 

CC BY-SA 4.0 chemistry of underage drinking by Colin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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6 Comments
  1. Reilly 7 months ago

    Colin,
    I found your piece on the chemistry of underage drinking interesting. You gave very strong statistics which greatly strengthened your argument. Your explanation of the “forbidden fruit” idea was well written and showed the detrimental effects that not informing children on the dangers of alcohol can have on adolescents. I found an article which debates the pros and cons of lowering the legal drinking age, which I think that you’d find interesting. I posted it below.

    https://debatewise.org/debates/2888-drinking-age-lowering-of/

  2. Eli 7 months ago

    Colin, I really enjoyed reading your piece. The facts you brought to light about drunk driving fatalities before and after the age limit were very intriguing. Also bringing up an essence of a forbidden fruit for the reasoning behind why teens want to try alcohol is a very good point. I completely agree with that point and I believe that teenagers often are striving to be able to view themselves as mature and this causes them to begin drinking to prove to themselves or others that they are mature and can drink alcohol to make them feel older or to numb them from pain. I enjoyed how you backed up your piece with the facts that you gave in your writing.

  3. Sofia 7 months ago

    Colin,
    I found this very interesting. I liked how you gave strong statistics at the very beginning to draw in the reader. I also liked how you talked about the causes at the end and then gave reasoning for why the drinking age should be 18 to prevent binge drinking. You may find this link helpful: http://www.indiana.edu/~engs/articles/cqoped.html

  4. Jenessa 7 months ago

    Colin, this was a very great summary. You included evidence about laws that have been passed, fatalities, and different statistics about different age groups. I like how you also touched on both sides and explored the outcomes from different ages. I really liked the reference to the “forbidden fruit” and how it is actually a “rotten apple.” I think that gave your research a fictional feel, which is interesting because it’s fact-based. You should look at this research done by Boston College comparing the 21 and 18 year old drinking age I think it could help aid your research: https://www.bu.edu/today/2010/drinking-18-vs-21/

  5. Anthony 7 months ago

    Colin I found your post to be very compelling in how to explained “Most teenagers are going to drink at some point through high school or college”– you explained this point very well and I could see your argument well throughout your post. I also found this website to be helpful in explaining that underage drinking is a serious public health problem in the United States. Alcohol is the most widely used substance of abuse among America’s youth, and drinking by young people poses enormous health and safety risks.

    https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/special-populations-co-occurring-disorders/underage-drinking

  6. Octavio 7 months ago

    Dear Allison, i like how you explained the harm of under age drinking and the key components alcohol has that can even more severely harm a person.After reading this this really could help parents have a more concern on their young one.

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