Should the Drinking Age Be Lowered Essay Sample

Published: 2018-04-17
Should the Drinking Age Be Lowered Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  United States Law
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1683 words
15 min read

Should the Drinking Age Be Lowered Essay - Top Reasons to Consider

Is it not ironical that an individual under 21 years in the US can legally own a gun and join the army yet cannot enjoy a cold can of Budweiser? In 1933 after the prohibition had been repealed, many states in the US set the minimum drinking age at 21. However, in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s most states in the United States, many states began to lower the drinking age from 21 to 18, in line with voting age. The result was a sharp increase in the number of alcohol users under the age of 21. The rising number of under 21 liquor drinkers corresponded with a similar rise in road accidents within the same age group. This prompted the US Congress to enact the National Minimum Legal Drinking Age (NMLDA) Act in 1984 to curb further loss of lives. However, the law is no longer relevant in the modern day setting. The legal drinking age should be reduced to 18 from 21 years because the NMLDA is not readily enforceable, 18 year old persons are responsible enough to drink, and the law pushes underage drinkers to drink in dangerous “underground” settings.

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Underage drinking already happens and is hard to enforce especially in higher education facilities (Tucker). In campuses, older students can legally buy alcohol while the younger ones cannot buy the same item. However, these two groups of students interact in the same learning institution. As such, it is easy for the younger students to gain access to alcohol, especially when the older ones purchase liquor. This situation makes it hard for university administrators and police to enforce the law. Administrators and law enforcement agencies cannot practically monitor the activities of each student on campus. On campus, there is a lot of peer pressure and parties predominantly have alcohol. As such, it is not difficult to imagine a situation where freshmen are consuming alcohol at a college event. Without being able to distinguish between who can legally drink and who cannot, institutions of higher education remain powerless to enforce the NMLDA (Tucker). To avoid instances where students engage in activities that could land them in jail, the legal age limit for drinking should be lowered to 18. Additionally, existing anti-drug use tactics are failures. Lilienfeld and Arkowitz note that programs such as the widely popularized DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) and “Just Say No” are pretty much inefficient. According to Lilienfeld and Arkowitz, students who were in schools that offered DARE classes were no different than students in schools that offered no such programs, with regards to alcohol consumption. The writer also cites other studies which show that 42 percent of 12th graders had consumed alcohol in the last month with 24 percent of the respondents engaging in binge drinking exercises. Such studies go a long way in showing just how hard it is to enforce existing the NMLDA.

Should alcohol age be lowered to 18?

In the United States, when persons turn 18, they acquire many new rights. For instance, at the age of 18 a person can vote in federal and state elections, the same person can marry, and they can sign up for active military service (Oglivie). As such, it seems odd that a person who can put their life on the line for their country is not permitted to drink. There is a need for consistency and it needs to be mentioned in the should the drinking age be lowered to 18 argumentative essay. If people can be trusted with important civic responsibilities then why not drinking? If the brain is still immature by the time people turn 18, then why should they vote or join the army? Should one not argue that the US is sending immature teenagers to Afghanistan? By creating an “under-age” drinker, the US government has now complicated the issue. At the age of 18, many people gain a form of independence legally and socially. Thus, when the government restricts under 21’s from drinking, this age group tends to defy the rules and drinks excessively. When an item is scarce, demand rises. Similarly, when persons under 21 are told that they cannot drink, they maximize each opportunity to drink; maybe because they are not sure if they can access alcohol at a later date. Further, the NMLDA makes the US look like a nanny state where the citizen’s welfare is closely managed by the government. 18-year-old persons are responsible enough to handle guns, cars, to marry, and to vote. Thus, they are quite capable of handling a drink as long as they get proper guidance.

Additionally, there are many people who drink before reaching 21 years old. By outlawing drinking for persons under the age of 21, the government has made underage drinking an underground activity (Ogilvie). When underage drinking goes underground, many teenagers use alcohol in unsupervised environments (Ogilvie). This puts them at risk of alcohol poisoning because they do not know the limits of how much they should drink (CDC). If alcohol was legal to persons under the age of 21, these persons would gain much needed experience from their parents or guardians. At the age of 18, most people still live with their parents. This means that their parents can monitor their activities. However, by the time most people turn 21, they are either in campus or out of their parents’ house fending for themselves. In such a scenario, the only information they get concerning alcohol comes from their peers, social media, and the internet. When with their friends, people under 21 have no supervision and feel inclined to take the opportunity to break the rules or to do something thrilling. This is perhaps the reason why persons under the age of 21 engage in acts of delinquency when they consume alcohol. Also, it could explain why over 189,000 trips to emergency rooms by individuals under 21 were caused by their engagement in risky activities while intoxicated (CDC). Moreover, when persons turn 21, they engage in binge drinking as if they are compensating for the many years that they had not been drinking. Making liquor illegal to individuals under the age of 21 have created an aura of mystery around the drink (Tucker) As such, there is a lot of hype surrounding the use of alcohol. It drives underage individuals to experiment with the drink. Also, the mystery around liquor makes it an item of rebellion. If liquor was accessible to under 21’s, then they would not need to use it for experimentation. Therefore, by lowering the drinking age, authorities may be able to reduce the curiosity that person’s under 21 have with regards to alcohol and allow them to be raised to drink responsibly.

Keeping the drinking age at 21 reasons

Opponents to the proposal to lower the drinking age would probably cite studies which show that the brain develops until a person reaches the age of 25. A report by Hanes (1) cites such researches which show that alcohol impedes the brain development of persons under the age of 25 and interferes with chemical and physical processes. In the end, the user experiences problems such as bouts of depression, alterations in their sleep patterns and anxiety (Hanes 4). Hanes (5) goes on to review another study which showed that 31 percent of youth respondents, between the ages of 18-24, had on average six different partners; only four percent of non-drinking youth had comparable figures. According to such arguments, alcohol impedes normal brain functioning and impairs the user’s judgment. However, one common element in all of the studies reviewed by Hanes (1-5) is that the respondents were persons who did not use alcohol in moderation. They abused alcohol. Using this argument to say that all persons under the age of 21 who drink would have the same adverse effects is similar to casting an unnecessarily wide net. When alcohol is used in moderation, it is unlikely to cause adverse health effects to the user. If persons under the age of 21 are allowed to drink, they will be able to learn about responsible drinking from parents or responsible guardians. It could even be a rite of passage for some. Another opposition to the proposal to lower the drinking age is that by doing, accident would increase. According to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), the enactment of the NMLDA has prevented over 250,000 fatal accidents which would have involved persons under the age of 21. However, trends from the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) show that there has been a general decline in fatalities involving all age groups since the eighties. These other age groups are not affected directly by the NMLDA but show a similar decrease. This means that even without the NMLDA, fatalities are bound to decrease perhaps because of improved vehicle safety designs.


The National Minimum Legal Drinking Age Act of 1984 was designed to reign in on the rise of alcohol-related deaths among persons under the age of 21 years. The law has achieved its goal in the eighties but it has overstayed its use. The minimum legal drinking age in the US should be reduced from 21 to 18. The NMLDA is not practically enforceable in institutions such as campuses and it leads to dangerous underground alcohol consumption. Also, persons above 18 are adults and should be allowed to consume alcohol without government interference. Therefore, there should be more proactive attempts to lower the drinking age to safeguard the health, safety, rights and freedoms of youth in the US.

Work Cited

CDC,. Age 21 Minimum Legal Drinking Age- A Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) Of 21 Saves Lives And Protects Health. CDC, 2017. Web. 3 Mar. 2017.

Hanes, Melodee. Effects And Consequences Of Underage Drinking. Washington DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2012. Web. 3 Mar. 2017.

Lilienfeld, Scott O. and Hal Arkowitz. "Just Say No?". Scientific American. N.p., 2014. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.

MADD,. Why 21- Addressing Underage Drinking. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 2015. Web. 3 Mar. 2017.

NHTSA,. Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Washington DC: NHTSA, 2014. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.

Ogilvie, Jessica. "The Pros And Cons Of Lowering The Drinking Age To 18". LATimes. N.p., 2011. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.

Tucker, Jeffrey. "The Drinking Age Should Be Lowered, Fast". Newsweek. N.p., 2016. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.

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