Underage drinking has become one of the biggest problems our country has had to face. It has become the number one drug of choice for teens, and its regular use makes it seem like there is no issue and that it is normal to drink excessively, but that is not the case. With a shocking 2.5 million people killed either directly by consumption or indirectly by fatal accident from alcohol consumption we are at a stage where a problem must be addressed. With the glorifying of alcohol on media platforms in movies like“Project X” and Instagrams like “IMSHMACKED”, it is no wonder this has become a nationwide problem, but even by peer pressure and the false allusion that it is the cool thing to do, there are still other reasons that teenagers drink alcohol. The main contributors to alcohol consumption are in fact lack of confidence, pressure from outside factors, self medication to make you feel good, and a lack of knowledge on the substance itself. The lack to address the real problems has resulted in the problem we have today.

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 an hour period. In fact drinking has become more popular with youth than adults. It has become a sport where you try outdo another. Drinking has been put in places in dangerous places making it a possibile futile activity. By increasing the age in 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, when alcohol related deaths in the teen category have soared. 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, makes a person appealing mature and sociable. This leads to consumption in unsafe amounts in unsafe places, without any adults knowing about the consumption.  

In European countries where alcohol is consumed regularly and openly talked about, there is not the same allure that is viewed in the US. Kids learn to drink at home and know what is a healthy amount, and in fact drinking becomes a part of the culture and everyday life, unlike the U.S. where it is an adventurous act with friends that should be hid from all adults The United States drinking age is 21, which much higher than in European countries. This makes it so adolescents miss out on the opportunity to learn to drink within family settings where moderate drinking is the norm, instead of binge drinking with no supervision.

Now why break something that is not broken. In the early 1970s the drinking age was moved to 18 but after to many accidents it was bumped back up to 21 again in the mid 1980s. Statistically it may be working but it is not working from a mental standpoint. 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, and is an excuse for impulse decisions.

College president John Mccardell states,”American teens be eligible for an alcohol permit — not unlike a driver’s license — upon turning 18, graduating from high school and completing an alcohol-education course. They would need the permit to buy beer, wine or liquor, and the state could revoke the permit for those convicted of alcohol-related offenses such as drunk driving.”

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February 26, 2018 6:29 am

Colin, I enjoyed reading your article. I the difference between how Americans treat the alcohol problem compared to how Europeans have elected to face this stunning. I believe it is mainly a result of the culture difference. Much like what Zachary says, our urge to drink while underage is likely a sign of pressure, the feel to need something we can’t have, and how our media has portrayed drinking. Our examples of how to model our drinking laws do not have to extend across the Atlantic. We can take a look at our neighbors. Countries like Canada are not faced with this problem to the same extent the US is.
I think you’ll find this link interesting to look at: https://drinkingage.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=004294

February 21, 2018 1:37 pm

You presented the problem quite well in this piece; I must agree, reducing the age would be amazing and work wonders for our nation. If you take a look at places like Germany, the legal drinking age is 16, but most places will serve you booze if you’re tall enough to sit at the bar counter. It definitely takes away that sort of forbidden aspect of it; reducing the age limit would most certainly prove beneficial in the long run, at the risk of a brief period of chaos at the start. There is, of course, the risk of integrating that view of booze with out culture; drinking as something illicit has been so ingrained into our culture at this point in time that if we were to do such a thing, it would run the risk or opening the gateways to something that the nation cannot handle. It truly is a gamble, but I favor the former option: lowering the age limit.

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