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Should The Drinking Age Be Lowered Argumentative Essay

Many groups make a number of arguments about the state of the current legal drinking age and few seem happy leaving it at 21 where it has been for many years. One of the persistent political and social debates in the argument surrounding adolescents’ rights and privileges involves the age at which they can drink alcohol legally. At present, the legal drinking age for alcohol in the United States is 21, which is higher than the legal drinking age in many other developed countries (Heather & Stockwell 213). Advocates who have an argument in support of lowering the drinking age contend that if they have certain rights and responsibilities that seem more “adult" at a younger age—such as fighting for the country, paying taxes, and getting married—they should certainly be allowed to drink. These advocates who make this argument about lowering the legal drinking age also suggest in their argument that the current legal drinking age simply promotes illicit drinking of alcohol, as many teenagers have experimented with alcohol, and some heavily and persistently, long before they reach the age of 21.

Although the above argument about lowering the drinking age may be legitimate, the argument against lowering the drinking age is also a valid one; furthermore, it is a more compelling and persuasive position. Research substantiates the contention that the legal drinking age should remain at 21. Put simply, teenagers have not developed the cognitive, social, and psychological mechanisms that are needed to make thoughtful and logical decisions about alcohol use; in addition, their bodies have not finished their physical maturation process. Thus, the government’s changing the legal drinking age from 21 to a lower age would be the equivalent of endorsing the short-circuiting of the maturation processes that are vital to human development and which pave the way for responsible participation in society. In short, the research that supports an argument that the drinking age should not be raised should trump general opinion. Those individuals who would like to see the legal drinking age lowered from 21 to 18 often argue that the legal drinking age in Canada and many European countries is in the mid- to late- teen years, and they further argue that this lower drinking age has not resulted in the unraveling of the social fabric (Heath 28). As some researchers and social scientists have pointed out, however, drinking trends among younger people have changed significantly in recent years as the influence of American advertising and the availability of American products have become more pervasive (Heath 231). While the argument that a lower legal drinking age may be based on the data from other countries, one must remember that the culture of alcohol is different in many of these countries and should not serve as a valid starting point for an American argument about the legal drinking age. Again, science and research should spearhead any argument made in favor of reducing or raising the legal drinking age.

Interestingly, on a cultural note in terms of the argument against lowering the drinking age, the fact that younger teens are permitted to drink has contributed, researchers suggest, to an increase in binge drinking that has been associated with a surge in injurious and fatal accidents, social deviance, and increased distance between adolescents and their parents (Heath 231). Thus, those who support the argument about retaining the legal drinking age of 21 in the United States point out that the vision we have of European alcohol use is highly romanticized, even dangerously so.

Alcohol belongs in the category of psychoactive substances one can legally buy in almost any country, according to certain criteria. Most often, this criteria is age; in the majority of cases, it is set to 21 years. However, in a number of countries, such as Australia, China, and Russia, it is set to 18 (ICAP). In the United states, calls for lowering the drinking age have sounded for a rather long time; considering that alcohol can lead to unpredictable behavior and other negative social consequences, the drinking age should not be lowered.

One of the first associations that come to mind when talking about alcohol is driving. For citizens of the United States, having a car is seen as a must starting from the age when a teenager is allowed to receive a driving license. According to data provided by the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving, in 2010, a high percentage of car accidents connected to drunk driving (15.1% out of 10.228 individuals) was observed among young people aged between 18-20 years (PolicyMic). Respectively, if youths were officially allowed to consume alcohol from 18 years old, this index of car accidents would necessarily be much higher. Moreover, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims that since establishing the drinking age of 21 in 1975, the number of car fatalities among 18-20 year old drivers in the United States decreased by 13% (SFGate).

The medical irresponsibility of allowing teenagers to drink alcohol on a legal basis is also obvious to those who have at least a basic knowledge in biology. Consuming alcohol on a regular basis can negatively affect the development of an individual’s brain’s frontal lobes, which are responsible for emotional regulation, as well as for planning and organization (ProCon.org). Underage individuals who consume alcohol put themselves at more risk of addiction, decreased ability of decision-making, tend to behave less responsibly, and may become violent, depressed, and even prone to suicide.

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The “trickle-down effect,” well-known to sociologists, is another reason against lowering drinking age that should be taken into consideration. This effect implies individuals who already have a right to legally purchase and consume alcohol tend to buy it for their younger peers (ProCon.org); for example, 21-year-old students buy beer or spirits for themselves and for their friends who can be of the age 18-20. In the case of the drinking age being lowered to 18 years, the age of individuals who in fact have access to alcohol will decrease even more, reaching ages of 15-17 or even less. Considering the specifics of adolescence, granting teenagers with a wider access to alcohol can have negative consequences for their health and wellbeing.

Though in a number of countries worldwide the drinking age is 18 years, in the United States, this index is 21, and it should not be lowered. Lowering the drinking age to 18 years old would lead to an increase of car accidents connected to drunk driving; it would also negatively affect youths’ cognitive development, clouding their ability to make decisions and plans, and would make them more vulnerable to addiction and other negative effects; due to the “trickle-down effect” lowering the drinking age would also mean granting access to alcohol to individuals who are younger than 18 years old. It seems this debate in the U.S. will linger on much longer.


“Minimum Age Limits Worldwide.” ICAP.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2014. <http://www.icap.org/table/minimumagelimitsworldwide>.

“Top 3 Reasons Why the Drinking Age Should Not Be Lowered to 18.” PolicyMic. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2014. <http://www.policymic.com/articles/14574/top-3-reasons-why-the-drinking-age-should-not-be-lowered-to-18>.

“Keep the Drinking Age at 21.” SFGate. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2014. <http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/article/Keep-the-drinking-age-at-21-3271409.php>.

“Should the Drinking Age Be Lowered from 21 to a Younger Age?” ProCon.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2014. <http://drinkingage.procon.org/>.

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