The Reasons Drinking Age in the USA Should Not Be Lowered

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In the United States the third leading cause of deaths that are preventable are alcohol related deaths. Each year approximately 88,000 people are killed from alcohol-related problems, making this one of the most preventable deaths in America. (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, [NIAAA], 2019). Alcohol usage is starting to become a major issue in which people are dying and all because they are not careful about how much they drink; at what age they drink and also because they drive under the influence. Alcohol is rising many questions for many from the industry of business, healthcare professionals, and our government as we are creating a dangerous environment. The drinking age should never be lowered as it will increase the usage amongst high schoolers, affect mental and physical health, and the number of drunk drivers will rise.

Alcohol has been present for centuries and is pretty much everywhere we go from restaurants, bars, parties, social events and many more; we have seen alcohol included. From tequila, vodka, scotch, rum, beer and to many more they all fall under the huge category better known as alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is known as a “depressant”, which are highly known to change or elevate moods just like how there are prescription drugs that do this known as psychoactive drugs. (Raszweski, 2010). Alcohol effects everyone differently depending on age, gender, and weight and how quickly it spreads everywhere in your body after intake. When you ingest alcohol your abilities to process everything slows down depending on how much your intake is because your central nervous system and mostly your whole body’s functions decrease at the speed they work. Impaired abilities are the contributing reason on why deaths and injuries occur after excessive alcohol usage. (Raszweski, 2010).

In this paper, through intensive research and information from many scholarly sources it helps gain a deeper understanding of alcohol and the ripples of effects it creates. From the health effects brought on by long term usage of drinking to underage drinking occurring in high numbers, to support the negative effects present within alcohol. For example, in 2016 alone in the United States every hour at least one person was fatally injured or killed. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations [NHTSA], 2018). While researching another major problem associated with drinking arose which was drunk driving and the escalating numbers of injuries and deaths that occur because of the high traces of alcohol found in this the driver’s blood.

Alcohol spans from having casual drink to becoming a binge drinker which causes extreme problems when the addiction gets serious. On a global level, deaths have increased yearly, more alcohol-related injuries and deaths are reported, and it is the fifth leading factor for death and disability. (National Vital Statistics System [NVSS], 2018). A majority of people have had at least one drink in their entire life but that one drink for many becomes an addiction. (Casey, 2014). Being under the influence it impairs your ability to register what is happening around you. (Alcoholism: Sourcebook, 2018). It’s when an individual starts heavily drinking is when not only are you at risk for health problems, but you also are more prone to getting seriously injured or even die.

Everyone knows the legal drinking age in the United States is 21 in each and every state. This age limit is set on a national level meaning each individual state does not have the ability to change it to whatever they like, this is known as MLDA law which stands for minimum legal drinking age. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] – fact sheet, 2018). With the drinking age being 21, it stands at a point in your life where you can handle responsibilities and know right from wrong. In a study conducted by Quinn and Bussey (2015), they were able to show the number of high schoolers that have not only admitted to having at least one drink but have also admitted that they have started becoming binge drinkers. Being a binge drinker is extremely harmful as you are at a higher chance for health issues in the years to come but also stand in a higher risk of getting into an accident because you are impaired. (Casey, 2014). The age limit of alcohol is perfect as is because 18 is very low because at that age you are still in high school and drinking at that age is not the best for you in general because you still are growing and you have an academic career you need to focus on. In a similar research conducted by Blasa, Guiliano, and French (2011), it was found in that study that a lower GPA was found between both females and males that were binge drinkers. Blasa, Guiliano, and French (2011), also studied a trickle- down effect which is basically when someone else is drinking and that influence is coming to younger individual’s that then get the feeling that they also want to drink, you see this occurring a lot in high schoolers. This further promotes the youth being open to alcohol usage which can make them feel like they want to drink alcohol. In another study by El Ansari, Stock and Mills (2013), they were able to find through many research studies that students who also go onto drinking excessively in college that it affects their academic careers. Furthermore, drinking in students that are underage not only is it harmful to them but it also has an impact on their academic career.

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The effects of alcohol in the youth such as high schoolers are tremendous. As a high schooler you’re in a phase in which you are maturing and growing and putting a substance like alcohol which can be addictive can have a massive impact on that individual. (Alcoholism: Sourcebook, 2018). You can lose focus on what’s important and go into a pathway filled with excessive drinking and that can lead to a very low point. Alcohol can be compared to vaping; vaping has landed so many people in the hospital and even deaths have occurred all because 18-year old’s are vaping excessively. (CDC – Outbreak of lung injury, 2019). In comparison, if we drop the age of alcohol then we will get to a similar result of what we see happening with the vaping crisis that is occurring in our country right now. For example recently the state of Texas went on to become the 16th state in the United States to increase they age of purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21 years of age to keep products such as tobacco out of the reach of students still in high school because of the negative effects it can create. (Comptroller Texas Gov., 2019). In other words, this can explain how not only is tobacco just as bad as alcohol but they both should be kept out of the hands of our youth as they are still young and shouldn’t be in such a rush or feel like that’s the most important thing they need to try. If some states are raising the tobacco age, then it’s for the best and with that in mind, a substance like alcohol that also has negative effects as tobacco should not drop their age limit as it also can create many problems. A main problem created by substances like alcohol is the impact it leaves on the human body.

The health of our body is the most important thing in the world and it’s in our hands on how we choose to take care of it. Our bodies are similar to the way cars work, for example putting diesel into a regular car will damage the car up and just like that putting excessive amounts of alcohol in the human body can create numerous problems. With alcohol in your system you are asking to damage your body. One drink won’t hurt you but when that starts turning into many is when you are damaging your body for the long term. Not many know all the damage that occurs with alcohol in your system. More than 30 conditions are created because of the usage of alcohol. To name a few there are, cancer, cardiovascular disease, pancreas disease, liver disease, diabetes, and many more. (Alcoholism: Sourcebook, 2018). Over the years the numbers of health issues created by alcohol usage is increasing in large numbers.

Disorders to disease they all are leaving impacts on the health of an individual. Studies done have shown that 1 in 3 liver transplants in America are needed because the liver was damaged with excessive alcohol usage. (Alcoholism: Sourcebook, 2018). Large numbers have had cirrhosis which is a damage done to the liver that can never be undone and can’t be cured. In 2013 alone, 47.9 percent of cirrhosis related deaths were caused by alcohol. (NVSS, 2018). The amount of deaths associated with alcohol and the human body is staggering and the numbers just continue to rise. All these conditions are simply stoppable if the individual stops drinking alcohol or at least limits the amount they drink so they aren’t left with major health conditions to deal with. Physically your body will deteriorate because too much alcohol is dangerous for your body. For example, the heart can be damaged and cause you to have high blood pressure, result in a stroke or heart attack. (Alcoholism: Sourcebook, 2018). Apart from physical health, your mental health can also be at stake and some people tend to forget that. Many overlook mental health when caused by alcohol but it’s very true, for someone who drinks heavily their mental health can also be at risk. Alcohol hinders the ability of the brain as it disrupts the communication controlled by the brain. (Raszweski, 2010). The functionality of the brain is rattled with which can result in change of behavior and mood. Not only is your mood and behavior affected but your process of thinking is slowed down and, in a way, impaired making it difficult to process what is happening around you. (Alcoholism: Sourcebook, 2018). With being impaired comes the even greater issue of drunk drivers.

Drunk driving is nearly reported for at least 29 deaths in America every day. (NIAAA, 2019). Some days the number can even be higher, so imagine the amount of deaths that occur in the United States annually, the numbers are staggering especially knowing all these deaths were preventable. The numbers are even higher for underage drinkers when it comes to drunk driving because they are less experienced in comparison to someone who is over the age of 21. In a 7-year study by Papalimperi, Athanselis, Mina, Papoutsis, Spiliopoulou, and Papadodima, (2019), they were able to collect results that reported on all alcohol related accidents and those accidents were all highly found amongst people between the ages of 21 to 30. In the United States the report collected in 2016, it was found that on an average every 50 minutes at least one fatality occurred. (NIAAA, 2019). Also, it was found that in that year from all the traffic crashes occurring in that year that 20 percent of all those crashes were caused my alcohol impaired driving. (NHTSA, 2018). All these statistics and reports created all bring to conclusion the whole synopsis of drunk driving. When seeing these large numbers of drunk drivers on the road and causing crashes you get a realization of how much impact alcohol really has and if we decide to drop the age limit then we will just get to see a huge jump of numbers of fatalities on the roads we drive on.

Many oppose the idea of keeping the age the same, as some want to lower it just because many underage drinkers do it anyway, so they want to make it legal. Those wanting to lower the age fail to realize the problems it will bring on, which makes lives of law enforcement and the government more difficult as they have to deal with more drunk drivers. They think lowering the age is right and, in their defense, if they get to vote and go to the military at that age then they should be able to have a drink, but they fail to see the damage alcohol causes especially to the youth that are still developing. For the alcohol industry dropping the age will give them an increase in the amount of revenue they make so for the company and the economy it is a positive factor.

The talks of lowering the alcohol age limit has been getting wild attention as many oppose it and some accept it, but the decision needs to be closely made as this will have a national impact. Dropping the age will not only cause drunk drivers to increase, but also the health of an individual will be threatened and also drinking will be promoted more in the youth. With this intensive research we are able to see all the negative association with alcohol and the lifelong affects it can have on an individual and this further goes on to support why the age should not be dropped. Will alcohol be the reason deaths increase nationwide, that can only be answered when we implement ways to promote drinking safety and keeping the age as is.

References:

  1. Balsa, A. I., Giuliano, L. M., & French, M. T. (2011). The Effects of Alcohol Use on Academic Achievement in High School. Economics of Education Review, 30(1), 1–15.
  2. Casey, M. (2014). Alcohol in America: What Can We Do about Excessive Drinking? Ashland, Oregon: National Issues Forums Institute.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Facts Sheets – Age 21 Minimum Legal Drinking Age
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with the Use of E-Cigarette, or Vaping, Products
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). National Vital Statistics System
  6. Comptroller Texas Gov. (2019). Underage Smoking Provisions – Regulatory Information
  7. El Ansari, W., Stock, C., & Mills, C. (2013). Is Alcohol Consumption Associated with Poor Academic Achievement in University Students? International Journal of Preventive Medicine, 4(10), 1175–1188.
  8. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2019). Alcohol Facts and Statistics
  9. Omnigraphics, I. (2018). Alcoholism Sourcebook: Basic Consumer Health Information about Alcohol Use, Abuse, and Addiction, including Facts about the Physical Consequences of Alcohol Abuse, such as Brain Changes and Problems with Cognitive Functioning, Cirrhosis and Other Liver Diseases, Cardiovascular.
  10. Papalimperi, A.H., Athanselis, S.A., Mina, A.D., Papoutsis, I.I., Spiliopoulou, C.A., & Papadodima, S.A. (2019). Incidence of Fatalities of Road Traffic Accidents Associated with Alcohol Consumption and the Use of Psychoactive Drugs: A 7-year survey. Experimental & Therapeutic Medicine, 18(3). 2299-2306.
  11. Quinn, C.A., & Bussey, K. (2015). The Role of Moral Disengagement Underage Drinking and Episodic Drinking. Substance use & misuse, 50(11), 1437-1448.
  12. Raszweski, R. (2010). The Encyclopedia of Alcoholism Abuse, by M.S. Gold & C. Adamee. 135(16). 97-97.
  13. U.S. Department of Transportation. (2018). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Traffic safety facts 2016 data
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