The National Drinking Age Should Remain At Twenty One
The topic of whether or not the National Drinking Age should remain at twenty-one or be lowered to eighteen has been a contentious and controversial debate. Many reoccurring arguments are that at age eighteen, one is legally an adult and is able to do things such as purchase tobacco, obtain a legal driver’s license, and get drafted into the army. However, a variety of studies show that even at the age of eighteen and being a teenager, the brain is still undergoing several crucial developments.
The consumption of alcohol, proven by different studies, may negatively affect the developing brains of teenagers, cause them to get in trouble with the law, and substantially affect their studies. Amongst those who want the National Drinking Age to be lowered to eighteen is Stanton Peele, a psychologist at New School University who believes that “Telling underage drinkers they won’t have access to alcohol only increases their motivation to drink.” According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about 11 million people between the ages of 12 and 20 are believe to drink alcohol every month, which is about a third of Americans in the 12 to 20 age group. This statistic, along with many others, is believed to be evidence that the current drinking laws are impotent and advocates dangerous drinking habits by adolescents. Supporters of lowering the drinking age contend that if the drinking age was set to eighteen, teenagers would not drink in secret, thus less accidents would occur. Many believe that lowering the drinking age would cut down on binge drinking and other abuses.
They also argue that if eighteen year olds are able to drink legally at a bar or keg, it would teach them to drink responsibly because if they don’t, they would be asked to leave. The National Youth Rights Association, a Washington based advocacy group for young people states “Many young people learn drinking in unsafe environments, like basement keg parties. They use alcohol with the intention of getting drunk rather than as a companion to food.” Although this argument may seem logical, it fails to consider the fact most teenagers would rather drink with the intent to get drunk, and they do so irresponsibly, creating extreme effects. In retrospect, drinking among adolescents, whether it is regular or excessive alcohol use, may result in substantial changes in brain functioning and intellective impairment. Due to their lack of experience, underage drinkers who drive after consuming alcohol are more inclined to become involved in a fatal car accident than older drinkers.
The use of alcohol among teens, especially excessive amounts, can lead to factors such as academic problems, death or injury, sexual assault, unprotected sex, and many more. In fact, about one fourth of college students have reported that alcohol use affects their academic performance. Early exposure to alcohol affects the brain. While teenagers are known to be able to drink longer than adults can before they get tired, they are impairing necessary functions. Alcohol damages the frontal areas of young brains, which is crucial and necessary for controlling things like impulses and being able to think thoroughly through certain situations, which is something that alcoholics of all ages lack.
Fulton Crews, who is a neuropharmacologist at the University of North Carolina, conducted an experiment in 2000 in which adolescent rats went on a drinking binge which resulted in many dead neurons. The research shows that in the human adolescent brain, alcohol disrupts parts of the brain that are essential to learning and things like “self- control, motivation and goal setting” as Dr. Crews states on page 4 of Katy Butler’s article The Grim Neurology of Teenage Drinking. A research conducted in 1998 by Sandra Brown and Susan Tapert, who are clinical psychologists at the University of California, revealed that fifteen to sixteen year olds who admit to have been drunk at least 100 times performed significantly more poorly than nondrinking peers on exams that tested verbal and nonverbal memory. In the New York Times article The Grim Neurology of Teenage Drinking by Katy Butler, Dr.
Tapert states “Heavy alcohol involvement during adolescence is associated with cognitive deficits that worsen as drinking continues into late adolescence and young adulthood.” Exposure to alcoholic beverages, especially at a young age, affects overall brain functions and abilities. Since the National Drinking Age was raised to twenty-one, traffic accidents have decreased. However, the leading cause of death among teenagers occurs in traffic accidents. Many teenagers consume alcohol and then convince themselves that they aren’t too drunk to drive.
They conclude that they are sober enough to drive, which ultimately results in hurting themselves, other passengers, and pedestrians. Setting the drinking laws to twenty-one has saved 19,000 lives since 1975, as reported by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, an organization that is attempting to make underage drinking promulgated to put an end to drunk driving and save lives, contends that setting the legal drinking age to twenty-one instead of age eighteen has saved more than 21,000 lives from car accidents involving the influence of alcohol. When assessing the effects of underage drinking, there is sufficient evidence to conclude that underage drinking comes with several respective consequences. Teenagers consume alcohol due to factors such as peer pressure, stress, and “just to try it.
” Underage drinkers put themselves at a colossal risk of getting into problems with the law; research shows that 32% of teenagers under eighteen who are in long-term juvenile detention centers were under the influence of alcohol at the time of their crime and/or arrest. Additional research even shows that teenagers who drink also put themselves at risk for getting seriously injured or dying. One statistic reveals that 35% of all drowning deaths are alcohol related, and that use of alcohol greatly increases the chance that a teen will be involved in a car accident, homicide, or suicide. If that is not shocking enough, another statistic reveals that alcohol is involved in 95 percent of violent and property crimes on campuses, including date rape, and 40 percent of students’ academic problems are alcohol-related. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it diminishes the activity in the brain and central nervous system.
Those who consume too many drinks make poor decisions and may also experience a false sense of control and the activity in the brain depresses. “Alcohol often causes inhibitions to break down,” which is why a female drinker might become vulnerable to a male. According to Phoenix House and a NYC abuse treatment center, 90% of rapes on college campuses occur after the assailant or the victim has consumed alcohol. In addition, as many as 70% of college students who have engaged in sexual activity (consensually and non-consensually) admit to having sex with someone because of their consumption of alcohol. Andrea Parrot, a Cornell University professor who has studied date rape states “Alcohol reduces inhibitions and dulls perceptions so that the woman is less likely to be alert and the man less concerned about what his date wants.
” There is a significant amount of evidence to suggest that the National Drinking Age should remain at twenty-one. The effects of underage drinking prove to be highly negative, and the consequences may even be deadly. Ultimately, there are no benefits to outweigh the consequences and effects of teenage drinking.