Societal Impact of Underage Drinking: An Argumentative Response

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Everybody knows someone who has drank or someone who drinks underage in the United States. Now think about that for a second; that is a huge percentage of our population that drinks underage. “By age 18, about 60 percent of teens have had at least 1 drink”. Annually about 5,000 young people die from alcohol related injuries. Having a legal drinking age is in place for a reason, there are negative impacts when you drink underage. “Early heavy alcohol use may also have negative effects on the actual physical development of brain structure”. Because of the fact that children are drinking early and heavily effects are only going to be worse long term. There is a lot of research that goes into underage drinking and things that can be done to prevent it, but there has not been one simple solution to the problem. Unfortunately in order to get the rate of underage drinking down in the United States it is going to take a lot of time. More funding and education needs to go towards prevention of underage drinking because many underage users of alcohol do not understand the risks that they are taking.

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When minors are drunk they are putting themselves in dangerous and risky situations. Being drunk puts you at a much higher risk for being sexually assaulted, Getting drugged, being jumped, and many other things. “Similarly, approximately one-half of all sexual assault victims report that they were drinking alcohol at the time of the assault, with estimates ranging from 30 to 79 percent”. In perspective that is a very large amount of rape incidents where alcohol was involved. Considering the fact that so many people are raped and that many include alcohol it shows that the sexual assaulters prey on drunk people because they are easy to take advantage of. In a situation like this it is not only the effect of the alcohol, after a sexual assault there are many emotional problems and many other obstacles that is hard for the victims to get over, let alone a teenager. If more minors were informed about this I think a little bit of fear would be instilled into them and they would be less likely to drink. The kids that would drink even though they know the risks are the kids that will drink no matter the consequence or punishment they will receive.

One of the most common things that is talked about underage drinking is driving under the influence. The most common reason for teens drinking and driving is because they do not want to have to call their parents or someone to pick them up, because they do not want to get in trouble. Many of these end up in crashes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out an article about “Motor Vehicle Safety” which states “In 2017, 15% of drivers aged 16-20 involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes after drinking and driving had a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher.” The legal limit for people 21 years old and above is a .08% blood alcohol content, but because these drivers were underage they were already breaking one law. If parents and kids were more educated on the topic and talked about it more the situation might be different. From a parents point, if they talked to the kid about the dangers the kid may not drink now that they know the risks. Most parents do sit down and have conversations about how underage drinking is unsafe. From a kids point, if they talked to their parents and the parents told them they would not be in trouble if they called for a ride, they will most likely call for a ride instead of getting behind the wheel and putting not just their own but everyone else’s lives in danger.

A topic that is very common when talking about underage drinking is that the legal drinking age should be lowered. ProCon.org put out a list of pros and cons about lowering the legal age. ProCon.org stated that the “American rate of underage drinking is lower than all other countries.” This is good that the American rate is lower, nut is still need to be lowered more. “20% of American youth aged 16-to-17 and 7.4% aged 14-to-15 report drinking alcohol in the past month compared to an average 38% of European youth aged 15-to-16 years. US teenagers aged 16-to-17 also show lower rates of binge drinking (12.6%) than do 15-to-16 year-olds from Europe (35%)”. Although we do have a lower rate it is still a fairly high percentage of underage drinking. Because the rate is so high you have to think about how the minors are getting the alcohol. It is not hard for minors to get their hands on alcohol here in America. Minors can get alcohol many different ways, it is super easy for people to get fake IDs or have someone over the age of 21 buy for them. “On average, students used fake IDs about 25 percent of the time they drank alcohol before they turned 21”.

There are many solutions that could possibly work to reduce the number of underage drinkers. The first is to implement alcohol control policies and sales bans. One study looked at the access then minors had to alcohol in Georgia. Lapham and McMillan found that when Sunday sales were allowed there was a 42% increase in alcohol-related vehicle accidents with Blue Law repeal in New Mexico. In the study it was obvious that restricting access to alcohol lowers the amount of underage drinking. It is almost to make it so minors cannot get alcohol without making alcohol illegal for everyone. There are a few easy and primary ways that the teenagers are getting their alcohol that take s little to no effort. Teenagers get alcohol four primary ways, the first is provision without exchange, the second is provision with exchange, the third is to have someone of age buy it then pay them for it, and the fourth is to just steal it. The first one typically has to deal with parents, or people they know. Because alcohol is so easy to access it just makes it that much easier for minors to get ahold of. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health report that approximately 8.7% of drinkers aged 12 to 20 purchased their own alcohol in 2006, and after alcohol sales bans in 2008 9.3% of drinkers aged 12 to 20 purchased their own alcohol. Therefore this being implemented did not really help, in fact it just made the amount of sales to minors go up.

Another way that underage drinking rates could be lowered is to have education going out to both parents and youth. The easiest way for people to learn about something is advertisements, and messages being sent out, this study did just that. Messages were sent out to the parents and to the kids in Western Australia ages 12 to 17 years old. Johnston found that over 86% of the parents found the campaign believable and relevant. In the campaigns Johnston added facts about how alcohol hinders brain development and mental health in youth. In, 2014, 38% of Australian 12-17 year olds who had drunk alcohol reported obtaining their last drink from a parent. At time 2, respondents were 2.4 times more likely to say it was inappropriate to give minors alcohol after viewing and reading the messages and advertisements. This study shows that educating parents and children on the risks of underage drinking lowered the number of minors drinking.

If you could do a combination of implemented projects and acts I think that would help to reduce the number of underage drinkers a lot, because there is not just one simple answer to the problem. Because there is a lot of research and different viewpoint on the issue it makes it very hard for everyone to agree on a solution. This obviously is not an issue where it will be fixed overnight, but over a span of time it can get better. Because this is a very broad topic, it makes it that much easier for people to go against your own viewpoint. With the different projects you could do a variety of education sessions and seminars along with campaigns and instilling things into schools so the kids are immersed into seeing the risks every day when they are at school and they have no excuse to talk about why they do not know about it. Above all I think that when I minor gets a driving under the influence, public intoxication, or minor in possession they should have to take a mandatory class to learn about what they are doing instead of just getting a ticket and the legal ramifications.

Doctors and researchers are now saying that teenagers need more sleep than what they are already getting. “The average amount of sleep that teenagers get is between 7 and 7 ¼ hours. However, they need between 9 and 9 ½ hours. When teenagers do not get enough sleep they do not function properly. They are more tired, it is harder for them to focus. Majority of the time minors are drinking during the weekend, but they still are havening some of the effects when they have to go to school on Monday. Drinking alcohol hinders sleep, and in fact actually affects your sleep pattern as well. Alcohol may make you fall asleep faster, but it reduces the quality of your sleep. Not only does it hinder sleep it stays in your system for a long time. In fact alcohol can stay in your system for up to three days.

On top of all the other risks on of the biggest risk is the affect alcohol has on your body. Drinking alcohol affects your brain, your liver, and above all your whole body and puts you at so many different risks. When you drink alcohol it damages your liver cells, and causes liver disease. “Alcohol causes 4 out of 5 deaths from liver disease’. In terms of your brain when you drink alcohol you have a slowed reaction time, memory loss, slurred speech, and many others. Thankfully these typically go away after a few hours, but if you are drinking copious amounts they could lead to long term problems. Many minors get drunk, fall asleep then don’t feel good the next day then they are fine. But once they are doing this every weekend the alcohol consumption really adds up quickly.

A lot of people would argue that if we just lowered the legal age to drink we would not have this problem. The most common arguments that you hear for lowering the legal drinking age are that if you lower it and let 18 to 20 year olds to drink in a controlled environment with supervision unsafe drinking activity would decrease. Another common argument is that if you just lowered the age people would not get the thrill of breaking the law to get drunk, and alcohol consumption would be more normalized, and people would be more responsible with the consumption of alcohol. Although these are good arguments and there is research on it, this is not the best way to handle the situation of underage drinking. Although some kids and parents know the risks they are still drinking and allowing their kids to drink, or providing the alcohol for them.

If the drinking age were to get lowered that does not help the human body. Alcohol hinders the brains development and at the age of 18 your brain is really developing, besides the brain there are multiple other effects like sexual assault, suicide attempts, homicide and violence, liver failure and so many others. If people think that lowering the age will make people more responsible with their alcohol, just look at all the people that are of age and cannot be responsible with alcohol. Having the drinking age lower would just make access to alcohol that much easier and kids would start drinking at an even lower age because the age is already lowered to begin with. People talk about how if we lower the age kids will not drink because it would not be illegal, but that is not the case. Teenagers do not have the ability to control themselves, when a teenager is put into a peer pressure situation they are very likely to cave in. Many teens that I have talked to have experienced and fall to peer pressure.

There is no easy fix to underage drinking that will make everyone happy. In all of the studies that I read the most effective way that was found to reduce underage drinking was to educate the parents about the risks of their children drinking and educate the children on the risks that they are taking and what the alcohol is doing to their bodies. Because there are so many underage kids in the country it is almost like underage drinking is an epidemic is some ways, because there are so many, nobody really has a solution, but it needs to stop. The kids do not really realize the effects and what they are doing to their bodies when they are drinking. The best way for the underage drinking rate to lower is to just simply educate everyone about drinking underage.

Works Cited

  1. Alcohol’s effects on the liver. 2016. website. 1 12 2019.
  2. Antonia, Abby, et al. ‘Alcohol and Sexual Assault.’ 25 1 2001. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. website . 1 12 2019.
  3. ‘Fake-ID Use Is Common, Fuels Underage Drinking.’ 18 10 2013. Live Science . website. 1 19 2019.
  4. ‘How Alcohol Affects the Quality—And Quantity—Of Sleep.’ n.d. The National Sleep Foundation. document . 1 12 2019.
  5. Johnston, Robyn s. “Evaluation of a public education campaign to support parents to reduce adolescent alcohol use.” Drug and Alcohol Review, vol. 37, 2018, pp. 588-98. EBSCO host, doi:10.1111/dar.12703.
  6. Meany, Brendan, et al. “The Effect of Sunday Alcohol Sales Bans on Teen Drinking in Georgia.” Applied Economic Perspectives and policy, vol. 40, no. 3, 2018, pp. 461-81. EBSCO host, doi:10.1093/aepp/ppx046.
  7. O’Connell, Bonnie RJ. Developing a Strategy to Reduce and Prevent Underage Drinking. National Academics Press, 2004.
  8. Should the Drinking Age Be Lowered from 21 to a Younger Age? 2 4 2019. website. 1 12 2019.
  9. Sleep in Adolescents. 2003. Website . 1 12 2019.
  10. Teen Drivers: Get the Facts. 30 10 2019. website. 1 12 2019.
  11. ‘Underage Drinking.’ n.d. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. PDF. 1 12 2019.
07 April 2022

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