The Appropriate Drinking Age

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Each year, approximately 5,000 teens under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking; including 1,900 deaths from car crashes, 1,600 from homicides, 300 from suicide, as well as hundreds from other injuries such as falls, burns, and drownings (Underage Drinking). Alcohol is the leading factor in several deaths by teens per year, revealing just how difficult finding the perfect age of responsibility is. As new information is being revealed to us, it is clear the dangers of alcohol can be devastating in young people’s lives.

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Lowering the drinking age, as well as raising it, both have their benefits and drawbacks. Although the new brain research reveals that the brain isn’t fully developed until age 25, the current drinking age should remain the same.

During July of 1984, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was signed into the law, making all states prohibit people under the age of 21 from buying and having public access to alcohol. Before this Act was passed, the United States had various drinking ages, ranging from 18-21. Several groups are still suggesting that the drinking age should be readjusted to the age of 18. Jack McCardell, a former president of Middlebury College in Vermont, believes that the wait involving the drinking age is counterproductive. The laws surrounding the current drinking age are ineffective and unenforceable (Greenblatt 153), and are only leading teens to unsafe drinking. With several other laws being enforced around age 18, is the current drinking age out of step with social and cultural reality (153)? On the other hand, advocates suggesting we keep the law explain that lowering the drinking age would be disastrous (153). Lowering it to 18 would further push down the drinking problem to 16 and 17 year olds. Not only will lowering the drinking age cause more problems, but a new argument, not normally heard from by courts, has been expressed. A shocking new study has found that your brain isn’t fully developed until age 25 (Greenblatt 5). This raises concerns to many people. By allowing 18 year olds to legally drink would only be stunting their brain growth, and putting them in serious danger for their futures. People promoting the decrease in the drinking age are only risking the lives of thousands of teens.

Although reducing the drinking age has its advantages and disadvantages, this is only one side of the debate. Another considerable argument is to raise the drinking age to 25. With the brain research, which came as a shock to many, has had a great influence in the difficulty of finding the perfect drinking age. As scientists use advanced technology, they now have a better understanding of how the brain works. The prefrontal cortex, which has links to other areas of your brain, develops later than anybody had realized. These areas of the brain are the seat of executive decision making”the parts of the brain that allow people to think through likely consequences of an action, weigh the risks and benefits and stop themselves from acting on impulse. In other words, the stuff that makes you a mature person (5). By raising the drinking age to 25, it could allow teens to further mature, perhaps even resulting in less disasters caused by alcohol. Although, raising the age to 25 would also be a difficult task to achieve. The age has been set at 21 for several decades, and enforcing teens to wait until this age to start drinking has been a struggle. What makes people think that raising it to 25 would have any different outcome? Would it just lead to more drinking behind closed doors, causing more safety issues?

As the search for the perfect drinking age continues, we see just how difficult it can be. With several different factors resulting in the complexity of this issue, including the brain research and various opinions from professionals, each has a major effect on the outcome. By lowering the drinking age, we will be jeopardizing the safety of teens in the United States, as well as worrying if they are mature enough to handle the responsibility. However, by raising the drinking age, enforcement will be an issue, in addition to it being unrealistic. Having the current drinking age remain at 21 is the best choice for keeping teens safe. With it being linked to less alcohol induced accidents and a decrease in teen deaths, it is clear that the current drinking age is set at an appropriate standard.

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