In my four-plus years of college, I have heard a number of people make the argument that the legal drinking age should be lowered to 18. Their arguments generally go something like, “If 18 is the legal age to go to war for your country and to vote for your elected leaders, then why shouldn’t you be able to drink a beer if you want to? I mean, after all, you are technically an adult at 18, so why shouldn’t you be entitled to all of the same privileges and freedoms as a 21-year-old?” While these may be valid arguments, I think there is more to consider when it comes to the topic of alcohol.
Alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs on the market today. Every year it is ranked as one the most common causes of death for teens and young adults. And let’s be real, it’s not as if people don’t start drinking underage as it is. High school teenagers and college students have had no problem getting their hands on alcohol in the past, even with the legal drinking age as it stands.
The key to the safe enjoyment of alcohol is to ensure that people are mature enough to make responsible decisions, such as knowing when enough is enough and designating a sober driver. This maturity comes with age, especially on a college campus.
Freshman year of college is a very hectic time. You are in a new place, with new people, trying to make good grades, and the last thing you need to be doing is going out every night drinking. Lowering the drinking age would give freshmen and sophomore students the ability to go to bars, which is just one more distraction from their schoolwork. Those who want to drink will find a way, but maybe by keeping the drinking age at 21 we can discourage at least a few teenagers from drinking before they are ready.
College students are fairly well adapted to living on their own by the time they turn 21. They learn how to budget their time more efficiently and take care of their responsibilities before they go out to the bars. It takes time to learn when you can afford to go out and party and when you have to stay in and study or sleep so you are prepared for the next day. It’s all part of becoming a mature and responsible student and citizen, and I just don’t think freshmen are capable of making that decision sensibly at this point in their lives.
I would like to add that this is not an attack on alcohol itself. I’m not against alcohol. I just think that it is better for everyone that we make teens wait until they are mature enough to handle it before we allow them to drink legally. If enjoyed responsibly, I believe alcohol can be a healthy way for adults to relax and have fun with friends.
However, it is important to remember that alcohol can be extremely dangerous if used carelessly. Aside from health and legal issues associated with heavy drinking, alcohol can also have a detrimental effect on your productivity in school or at the work place. I think it was, and still is, a smart decision to make young people spend a few years in the real world before giving them the privilege to drink legally.
Nick Joyner is a senior political science major from Montgomery Texas.