The problem of drinking among the youth shows no sign of slowing down, according to the 2004 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. More and more students are drinking after school and most of these are students under age 16. This paper states that alcohol drinking must not be lowered to 18 because primarily, it serves as a gateway to drugs, as alcohol has been linked to substance abuse. This is the reason there is wisdom in keeping the minimum drinking age at 21. In fact, lowering the minimum age to 18 years old during the late 1960’s and early 70’s by some states proves to be a mistake.
During that period, the states saw a sudden rise in vehicular accidents involving youths. Consequently, when the minimum age was changed to 21 years in the 1980’s, teen vehicular deaths dropped by as much as 28 percent. Therefore, it is important to restrict access to alcohol to those who are over 21 years of age, along with strict implementation of existing laws. This will all the more prove that this regulation can save lives in a manner that is both effective and inexpensive. (National Institutes of Health News, 2004).
Drinking alcohol should remain at age 21 and should not be lowered at all. One of the major culprits here is the presence of television commercials which have been designed to lure the youth to drink because of the status symbol that it creates. Often the image it creates is that of young people who figure in an accident or of people who have difficult hangovers the next day. Primary culprit in this problem is mass media. It is unfortunate that the alcohol industry uses all kinds of advertisements so that the young drink at a very young age.
This is even made more enticing because of the peer pressure that young people undergo from their friends who drink. A sense of purpose and a strong determination will stop a person from following the habits of his friends. One reason why drinking alcohol must be restricted to adults who are 21 and above is the fact that there have been studies by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that say that adolescents who drink heavily can get the same long-term health risks of the adults who also drink heavily.
Health wise, these young people develop a lot of diseases even if they are still young. These are illnesses such as pancreatitis, hemorrhagic stroke, cancer and some forms of cirrhosis of the liver. The statistics on health are alarming. Alcohol is able to destroy the central nervous system and shrinks the brain tissue causing it to be permanently damaged. Even animal studies demonstrate that young brains are vulnerable to the dangerous effects of alcohol, especially on learning and memory function (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2004).
The Task Force on Community Preventive Services says that the process of maintaining and implementing an age 21 minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) are based on the strong evidence of effectiveness which includes a median of 16% decrease in the motor vehicle accidents (Shults, 2001). It is important that people understand the excessive consumption of alcohol contributes to a staggering 4,600 deaths among those young people who are the underage youth who are persons less than the 21 years of age in the United States (CDC. Alcohol Related Disease Impact).
Even the Task Force on Community Preventive Services says that the process of maintaining and implementing an age 21 minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) are based on the strong evidence of effectiveness which includes a median of 16% decrease in the motor vehicle accidents (Shults, 2001). The statistics of students drinking, particularly the young ones who do so before they are 21, can be a real cause of alarm. Today, the facts speak for it—the US seems to be one of the countries that have one of the highest drinking age limits.
The current legal drinking age is set to 21 and this most welcome move for the advocates and conservative people. Whatever good thing that was presupposed by several authorities before regarding the drinking age, it seems that the ones who are being affected seem to think otherwise. The different binges convince authorities that students will just go and follow their own rules by buying alcoholic drinks disregarding the rule about it (Hanson). Researches reveal that six youths will die every day in non-driving alcohol-related causes, such as homicide, suicide, and drowning.
These little horrors happen every day, every year. It would be tempting to shrug off drinking among students done secretly or within the school proximity as a rite of passage, but cold, hard statistics point out that it is not so. Students who experiment with alcohol are guaranteed to use it. In a study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in 2003, it was found out that high school seniors who tried alcohol-even those that tried once, about 91. 3 percent are still drinking by the 12th grade (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2004).
Disturbingly, of the high school students who have ever been drunk, 83. 3 percent or over two million youths are still getting drunk by the 12th grade and individuals who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become alcohol dependent than those who begin drinking at age 21. The same study makes it clear that teen drinking is the number one source of adult alcoholism. We may think that drinking is glamorous. Indeed the media bombard us with advertisements that portray it so.
Often the image it creates is that the worst thing that can happen to us is a raging hangover. The stark and appalling reason for this is the alcohol industry uses advertisement that appeal to the youth, as most heavy and problem drinkers begin drinking before they reach age 21. This is aggravated by peer pressure as youths who have friends who drink, also take it at an earlier age. Nevertheless, high self-esteem, self-discipline, impulse control, and a sense of purpose enable youths to withstand peer pressure. Yes, these characteristic takes guts, but nevertheless, true character is made.
There had been studies about the continuing effects of drinking alcohol and this was revealed by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in 2003. It was seen that high school seniors who tried alcohol-even those that tried once, were still drinking when they reached the 12th grade. This is an alarming 91. 3 percent. More than this, of the different high school students who have already started drinking even before they reached the age 18, are four time more likely to become alcohol dependent than those who begin drinking at age 21.
This also emphasizes the point that teen drinking is the main cause of adult alcoholism. These young people already make a habit of drinking and this is continued as they grow old. Indeed, young people are drinking more. It is said that the average amount drunk by 11-15 year olds in 1990 was 0. 8 units per week rising to 1. 6 units in 1998. It is said that the average amount drunk by teenagers who are 11-15 year old in 1990 was 0. 8 units per week and was still increasing to 1. 6 units in 1990 (Alcohol Concern. Young People’s Drinking Factsheet 1).
What is even alarming again is the fact that young people tend to select the stronger brands of beer, cider and lager. The end goal is to find the association of drinking with “here and now” cognitive problems in short-term and internally cued prospective memory as well as long-term memory problems, which are more related to storage and retrieval difficulties. A possible solution to this is to include increased alcohol excise taxes and also to limit alcohol outlet density, limiting the exposure of youth to alcohol marketing (Bonnie RJ, O’Connell ME, 2004).
Indeed, the gut truth is that the use of alcohol is frightening. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, adolescents who drink heavily assume the same long-term health risks as adults who drink heavily. This means they are at increased risk of developing cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, hemorrhagic stroke, and certain forms of cancer. Studies also show that alcohol depresses the central nervous system and shrinks the brain tissue, causing permanent damage.
Furthermore, animal studies show that young brains are vulnerable to dangerous effects of alcohol, especially on learning and memory function. More in-depth studies are needed to verify if these or other factors are responsible for greater cognitive decline in smokers. The different laboratory studies are able to show confounding variables, although this can be a problem in cases where there is too much control, as the traditional processes involved in prospective memory will not be activated and one cannot be sure that the results obtained would have occurred in real life.
References Alcohol Concern. Young People’s Drinking Factsheet 1. Accessed March10, 2009 at: http://72. 14. 235. 132/search? q=cache:kO5u04-P2DQJ:www. alcoholconcern. org. uk/files/20040706_145136_young%2520people%2520factsheet%2520-%2520updated%2520March%25202004. pdf+drinking+alcohol+by+young+people&hl=tl&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=ph Bonnie RJ, O’Connell ME, eds. Reducing underage drinking: A collective responsibility. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2004. CDC. Alcohol Related Disease Impact (ARDI).
Accessed March10, 2009 at: http://apps. nccd. cdc. gov/ardi/Homepage. aspx. Hanson, D. The Legal Drinking Age Science vs. Ideology. Accessed March10, 2009 at: http://www2. potsdam. edu/hansondj/YouthIssues/1046348726. html National Institutes of Health News (2004). Alcohol Abuse Increases, Dependence Declines Across Decade. Accessed March10, 2009 at: http://www. nih. gov/news/pr/jun2004/niaaa-10. htm National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. February 2002. Rev. ed. February 2003.
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Am J Prev Med 2001;21(4S):66–88. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2004). The National Survey on Drug Use and Health Report 2004. Accessed March10, 2009 at: http://www. oas. samhsa. gov/2k4/ageDependence/ageDependence. htm Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “n. d. ” Youth and Underage Drinking: An Overview. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed March10, 2009 at:http://www. health. org/govpubs/RPO990/default. aspx