Alcohol is essentially society’s principal recreational drug; it is the biggest threat to American youth, and there are over six times the amount of alcohol related deaths than deaths caused by all illegal drugs combined (Rorabaugh, Bernstein). Alcohol can influence people to participate in dangerous or illegal activities. Even though alcohol is recognized to be dangerous, some people argue that the minimum legal drinking age should be lowered from 21 to 18. For many reasons such as health, traffic accidents, and other negative effects in adult life, the minimum legal drinking age should remain 21 (Drinking).
Alcohol can lead to poor judgement and making bad decisions. While under the influence of alcohol, poor decisions can lead to sexual assault, suicide, pregnancy, the use of other drugs, car accidents, homicide, and many other negative and irreversible effects (Bernstein). Prisons hold people who have committed crimes while under the influence of alcohol, and often, the criminals do not have any recollection of what happened when he or she was intoxicated (Rorabaugh).
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One reason the minimum legal drinking age should not be lowered is because of the health risks (Drinking). Alcohol can permanently damage many important organs such as the brain, stomach, heart, and liver. Young people’s brains have not finished developing and consuming alcohol has many negative effects on the undeveloped brain. Using alcohol as a teenager leads to many negative effects such as difficultly forming memories, offset sleep patterns, poor judgement and decision making skills, lower educational performance, and alcohol and drug abuse later in life (Bernstein).
Another reason the minimum legal drinking age should not be lowered from 21 to 18 is because of the risks of deaths and injuries in drinking-and-driving car accidents (Drinking). Out of all drunk-driving accidents, the group of teenagers ages 15 – 20 years old has the highest blood alcohol content levels (Bernstein). Teenagers are not mature enough to handle the responsibility of alcohol, and that immaturity and irresponsibility can lead to teenagers harming or killing themselves or other people. Traffic fatalities are higher in countries with a lowered minimum legal drinking age, and when the minimum legal drinking age was raised from 18 to 21, there was a decrease in traffic accidents (Drinking).
Having a minimum legal drinking age of 18 would allow more people to drink in dangerous environments such as bars and nightclubs. 76 percent of alcohol-serving locations have provided alcohol to clearly intoxicated customers, and nearly half of the people arrested or killed in drunk-driving accidents did their drinking at licensed establishments. Areas with a greater concentration of bars, nightclubs, and other drinking locations have a higher number of violent crimes such as assaults and homicides (Drinking).
Lowering the minimum legal drinking age to 18 would give more people access to alcohol. Most teenagers 18 – 20 are supplied alcohol by their friends who are legal to drink. If younger people had easier access to alcohol, they would supply to their younger underage friends, and more high schoolers and middle schoolers would have easier access to alcohol (Drinking).
People who are in favor of lowering the minimum legal drinking age from 21 to 18 have many reasons they believe the minimum legal drinking age is to high. They believe that because the age of adulthood is 18 and when teenagers turn 18 they receive many other rights, such as the right to vote, smoke cigarettes, join the military, and get married, they should have the right to be able to make their own decision on consuming alcohol; however, like alcohol, many other rights such as gambling, purchasing a handgun, adopting a child, and renting a car, have higher minimum legal ages because of the dangers and responsibilities (Drinking).
Proponents of lowering the minimum legal drinking age feel that having a minimum legal drinking age of 21 is ineffective because most teenagers still consume alcohol, but the percentage of teenagers who drink underage has decreased since the minimum legal drinking age was increased from 18 to 21 (Drinking).
The people who think the minimum legal drinking age should be lowered argue that the minimum legal drinking age of 21 is not strongly enforced by the law. Many police under-enforce the minimum legal drinking age because of the time, effort, and resources used to enforce the minimum legal drinking age law. It is estimated that only two out of every 1000 occasions of illegal underage drinking end with an arrest. Even though it is not strongly enforced by the law, the majority of the American public supports the minimum legal drinking age of 21 and would oppose decreasing it to 18 (Drinking).
It is argued that having a minimum legal drinking age of 21 does not have an effect on the rates of suicide and homicide; however, it has been found that the younger a person is when he or she begins consuming alcohol, the higher the chances of that person using illegal drugs. Therefore, allowing more youth to drink will increase the number of teenagers who use drugs, which are associated with homicide and suicide (Drinking).
Alcohol can influence people to do dangerous things. If not used responsibly, it can cause harm and even death. Alcohol is dangerous and should not be given to teenagers under 21.
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