We should not lower the drinking age | Pexels

I am a 20-year-old sorority girl, but I have yet to drink a single drop of alcohol.

I am waiting until my 21st birthday to drink, because it is the law. All of us ought to respect it.

The 21-year-old drinking age in the United States exists to try to limit drunk driving inci­dents and support brain devel­opment that con­tinues into early adulthood.

My parents never told me I couldn’t drink. My friends cer­tainly wanted me to drink. Yet, it just didn’t feel right. I couldn’t justify inten­tionally breaking one law when I don’t inten­tionally break any others.

In 1984, Pres­ident Ronald Reagan signed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, requiring states to raise the drinking age to 21 or face a 10-percent cut to federal highway funding. Every state chose to adopt the higher drinking age.

A national problem with drunk driving pro­vided the motive. In the late 1960s and 1970s, all states held their drinking age at 18 years old, which resulted in a greater number of car acci­dents due to drunk drivers. The National Insti­tutes of Health stated in the 1970s that 60 percent of all deaths caused by traffic were con­nected to alcohol, including more than two-thirds of those involving 16- to 20-year-olds.

In the years fol­lowing the passage of Reagan’s law, drunk-driving acci­dents dropped by 50 percent, mostly among teens and young adults.

Underage drinking still has a pro­found effect on the mental health of many young people.

Teenagers who drink before 15 are six times more likely to have alcohol depen­dence or abuse in their adult years than those who start drinking at age 21, according to a study by the Center for Behav­ioral Health Sta­tistics and Quality. Sta­tistics con­tinue to support a 21-year-old drinking age. Underage drinking and driving is still a major problem, causing about 25 percent of all car crashes involving teens, a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Pre­vention found. It also leads to alcohol addiction as they grow older. A survey of 14 million people who are alcohol dependent found that 95 percent began drinking before age 21.

Another issue is binge drinking, which is under­stood as the drinking of alcohol in abundant amounts in a short time­frame. Several studies pub­lished by Center for Disease Control said binge drinking is the most common, costly, and deadly pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States.

Starting binge drinking habits early in life could lead to larger drinking issues in the future. A study found in Alco­holism: Clinical and Exper­i­mental Research stated that men and women who started drinking after puberty drank half as much as those who began drinking prior to puberty.

“Having the first drink during puberty was asso­ciated with ele­vated drinking levels and more haz­ardous alcohol con­sumption pat­terns,” the study said.  People who put off drinking have more time to build healthy habits. Underage drinking damages the brain. A teenager who drinks has more damaged nerve tissue com­pared to teens who don’t drink.  

“The ado­lescent brain is still under­going several mat­u­ra­tional processes that render it more vul­nerable to some of the effects of sub­stances,” said Susan Tapert, a neu­ro­sci­entist at the Uni­versity of Cal­i­fornia,  San Diego.

Although evi­dence sup­ports the 21-year-old drinking age, the fact still remains that the majority of young adults will probably drink at some point before they turn 21 years old. Redi­recting the culture away from binge drinking would require a major cul­tural shift — one that may take gen­er­a­tions to overcome. True, police can crackdown on college cam­puses and threaten to shutdown parties, but people will still drink.

Cur­rently, about one in seven teens binge drinks, yet only one in 100 parents believes their teens binge drink, based on a study from the Center for Behav­ioral Health Sta­tistics and Quality. By raising awareness to the sit­u­ation, and perhaps only by doing so, can there be a wide­spread movement against underage drinking.

The law aims to do good and as hon­orable cit­izens, we should respect that.

When my birthday rolls around, I will go out for my first drink. I’m not going to lie, I’m excited.


Josephine von Dohlen is a junior studying history.

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Josephine von Dohlen
Josephine von Dohlen is a senior from Minneapolis, Minnesota who appreciates the communicative power of journalism and the community that it fosters. A graduate of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., she has previously interned with Catholic News Service and the Santa Barbara News-Press. At Hillsdale, she is a member of the Dow Journalism Program and majors in American Studies. Email: