Old enough to fight for country, old enough to have a drink

How many people reading this have ever had an illegal drink before they were 21 years old?

How many have seen themselves or a friend get caught drinking while under age and thought it was an absolutely ridiculous thing to be busted for?

The simple fact is that 18 year olds receive the right to vote, get married, and go into the military three whole years before they can have a beer legally. We’re talking about handing out life-altering responsibilities but leaving one major one out.

America is at the top of a list when it comes to the having highest drinking age enforced in the world. Only Indonesia, Palau, and Mongolia match the US in allowing young adults to consume alcohol only when they reach 21 years of age.

We can’t kid ourselves; alcohol is a big responsibility no matter at what age it is granted. To not allow an adult the right to drink until 21 is not only insulting, it is proving to be more harmful than ever intended.

When Congress originally passed this legislation in the mid-1980’s, it was done with the best of intentions to lower alcohol-related accidents and fatalities in vehicles. The group, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), was the driving force behind the issue getting into the national spotlight.

It’s been over 20 years since US Congress passed the law to raise the minimum legal drinking age, and the debate that has ensued has never seemed to lose its steam.

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Though statistics have shown a small decline in alcohol-related accidents in the country, it has given way to a problem everyone knows about but doesn’t really question.

Underage drinking has become more and more noticeable but is often glanced over and even accepted. Though local law officers enforce this infraction, kids still continue to drink. They go underground and find ways to avoid getting caught.

There is never a shortage of people, older siblings, or even parents/guardians who will supply the booze for their underage kids. Kids looking to drink will find a way to get their hands on some alcohol and then will move into the shadows, so to speak.

It is in these shadows that binge drinking has become the problem that needs addressed. Most of us know how it goes: you gather up your friends, find a buyer, gather up a meeting spot to discuss the prospective place or places to drink, and then hit it hard when you get there.

These binge drinking sessions often lead to tragic instances of alcohol poisoning and poor decision making that wouldn’t occur if young adults were in bars, surrounded by an older and more responsible crowd instead of in the woods out by Eklutna.

Kids have all different sorts of reasons to go out and drink. Some do it to be cool, others do it because it’s something to do, others do it to fit in. However, most of them are in over their heads from the start and it’s simply because they haven’t been educated about alcohol use. More and more kids are facing down Minor in Consumption (MIC) charges and it has become one of these most common juvenile offenses kids pick up before the age of 21.

So how do we fix the problem? Simple, educate the kids and give them the responsibility of drinking at an earlier age. If they’re truly considered adults at the age of 18, then why not let them consume alcohol.

What argument is there really?

Are 18-year-old kids more likely to drive drunk than when they’re 21? More and more people are seeing the stupidity of driving drunk and that the law is coming down harder than ever on those who choose to drive drunk.

What about the maturity level differences? Yes, an 18-year-old kid is not as mature as a 21-year-old. However, is the difference that big? Research has suggested a very subtle change in brain and body maturity but this is where the education comes in. Teach the kids about it, they’ll listen, and most of them will be thankful to be treated as an adult and given the choice and responsibility that comes with their actions.

Also, why is it we can buy cigarettes, a far more harmful product for our bodies and those around us, at 19 years old? 21 is an arbitrarily picked line, and holding adults in limbo for 3 years before they are allowed to consume encourages the worst patterns of drinking behavior.