The legal drinking age of 21 is actually detrimental, causing a wave of new alcoholics.

At 21, most people are outside of parental supervision, at college, or (hopefully) living on their own (I know this is an unattainable reality for some Millennials, the perspective is still valid for a large chunk of the populace).

I believe that it is critical that a youth learn 'the right way' to drink. I know this sounds a little silly to some of you, please reserve judgment until the end of this post.

I see so many people who just hammer themselves drink after drink until they feel blitzed enough. And as many of you experienced drinkers know, you're usually 1 or 2 drinks over where you want to be when it starts to hit you, if you slam them one after another.

Most of the time it is a strange peer one-upsmanship contest that nobody wins.

On the other hand, most of the people that I see that moderate their intake responsibly, slowly ramping up to their 'dancing optimum' where your inhibitions are just weak enough to let you loose, but still around enough to keep you from snorting a line of Finishing Sugar off of the rim of your margarita.

And in most circumstances, those people that drink responsibly were indoctrinated in the responsibilities of drinking at home by their parents.

I know its common knowledge that parents may occasionally give their older kids a sip of wine or beer, and most people really don't have an issue with this provided it isn't some whackjob parent buying six-packs for sleepovers.

On the other hand, when the drinking age was 18, many families I knew made it a point to be around for their newly drinking-legal offspring's first few benders.

Important lessons were learned in these early years.

  • Pacing
  • Quality assessment
  • 'Beer Goggle' resistance

In most similar perspectives, it is the gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) embarrassment of family members (that are trusted) that guide the youth into proper drinking patterns.

Without that guidance, drinking patterns are based upon personal experience and peer encouragement.

In the modern-day 21 college frat party culture, there are fewer social controls or mentor structures in place, resulting in a larger number of people who become adults without really having a grasp of consumption moderation.

I volunteer at a non-profit drug rehab, and I see literally thousands of alcoholics come through our doors every year. I get a chance to hear most of their stories.

Most of them started young, 12-14. And they started hardcore, and never really stopped, and never learned to stop, and never learned why they even would want to stop.

And they never had a chance to have guidance from their family on how not to be stupid in consumption.

So, I feel that by raising the legal drinking age to 21, and stigmatizing alcohol awareness training from parents, we have created a great swell in the number of alcoholics that need treatment to get their lives back on track.

  • 6 years ago

    A few things.

    First off, you're running in the assumption that changing the drinking age will allow more of a 'mentored' early drinking experience. A lot of alcoholics had few supporting family/frienda regardless of what age they started drinking. If Johnny's dad is the kind to not give a shit about him drinking out on a school night, Johnny's dad is simply not gonna give a shit.

    Second, a switch from 21 to 18 would have no effect on the ones starting at 10-14. If they start at the age when legal is 21, they'll start at that age when it's 18 as well.

    • 🎤Author
      6 years ago

      Again I can only offer anecdotal experience, but I have literally a decade full of thousands of anecdotal experiences shared by some of the worst affected and chronic alcoholics in the system.

      Kids are gonna be kids, and most kids get a chance to sneak some booze long before their legal age, I recognize that.

      And there are going to be some craptastic parents who actively encourage their child's alcoholism, though evolution would indicate that those are in the minority.

      The thing is, when 18 was 'legal', most dads didn't think twice about sharing a beer or two with their 16 year old, but most I've asked nowadays wouldn't even consider it until their kid was at least 19-20, far far too late for those important drinking foundations to be established.

    • 6 years ago

      That last paragraph didn't even cross my mind, very fair point.

  • 6 years ago

    Adolescents who drink risk irreversible brain damage, even among once-a-month heavy drinkers.

    The brain continues to develop well into your mid-twenties.

    Stopping people from drinking until age 25 in order to inflict the least brain harm would have numerous health benefits, but socially and politically it may be an untenable policy. Disallowing 10 and 11 year olds to drink is socially and politically expected, and the benefits agree with scientific research. Obviously there needs to be a middle ground.

    The ages 18-21 are the legal ranges that we assign to the young adulthood transition. Allowing the legal drinking age to be much younger would cause catastrophic damage to young people's brains, mostly among those who lack the skills and resources that promote responsible drinking.

    In addition, there is nothing very little legally or morally that currently stops families from introducing responsible alcohol consumption to younger kids. They are already doing this. Reducing the legal drinking age would not increase this rate.

    EDIT: Correction: I mean to say that many states have legal safeguards in place for underage drinking with parental consent. Even if there AREN'T, it is trivial for a responsible parent to circumvent those laws. Here, son, have a sip of my beer.

    Anecdotally, I was a latch-key kid and somehow didn't pick up drinking or cigarettes, probably because I was pretty resistant to peer pressure (i.e., stubborn and nerdy), and I didn't care for the smell or taste. I knew other kids with amazing support networks (i.e., financially, educationally, socially, etc.) who somehow had no problem stealing their parents' liquor and binging til they puked. All the social factors that go into addiction are extremely complicated, so I believe it's better to rely on biological facts and laws that empower parents than to keep our fingers crossed and hope underage kids know what they're doing.

    EDIT2: thesis

    • 🎤Author
      6 years ago

      Adolescents who drink risk irreversible brain damage, even among once-a-month heavy drinkers.

      I certainly agree, and I do not advocate any form of regular alcohol use until after puberty has completed its hayride.

      That said, one or two experiences, under careful adult supervision, is more than enough to establish healthy patterns for when the young adult reaches legal age.

      This isn't an 'every weekend all the family drinks till stupidity' thing, this is a carefully orchestrated adolescent right of passage that should be handled by respected elders before the young adult's 'respect elders' become seniors at the frat party.

      Stopping people from drinking until age 25 in order to inflict the least brain harm would have numerous health benefits

      Yes and if everyone were vegan and exercised, the average lifespan would be 110.

      I as an adult reserve the right to damage my body in ways I enjoy as a sacred right of my self-direction.

      If, as an adult, I wish to shorten my lifespan by smoking cigarettes, that is my personal right.

      Same with drinking.

      We aren't talking least-harm scenarios here, because those are just academic ridiculousness that has very little practical application to the real world outside of theraputic environments.

      there is nothing legally or morally that currently stops families from introducing responsible alcohol consumption to younger kid

      Incorrect on the moral part, and the legal shift has also caused an attitude shift in parents to raise the age at which they broach the topic of responsible drinking.

      It is because this attitude shift doesn't show up on a gallup poll that it is mostly unnoticeable.

      Anecdotally, I was a latch-key kid and somehow didn't pick up drinking or cigarettes

      Same here actually, my personal habits didn't start until I was 23. I picked up gaming and the jury is still out which is more unhealthy.

      I knew other kids with amazing support networks

      This is the absolute key, you can have a group of supportive peers that drink and teach each other not to be stupid, but this is rare and chancy, and you can't rely on just peer support for something so life-changingly critical.

      t's better to rely on biological facts than to keep our fingers crossed and hope kids have great helicopter parents.

      I would say that helicopter parents are a large part of the increase in youth drinking.

      When one is under greater restrictions, the moments of freedom become embraced with far more abandon for their rarity.

      Part of growing up is learning what it is like to suffer the consequences of overindulgence, and these experiences usually do not translate very well without at least SOME form of personal experience.

      Best to do it around people who know to hold your hair and not let you fall asleep on your back, right?

    • 6 years ago

      Sorry, I was editing my comment as you were replying, so there are some small differences in my argument. Mostly I put more emphasis on parental responsibility that's enabled through already-legal underage drinking mechanisms.

      One clarification question: do you suggest lowering the age to 18, lowering it to something like 15-16, or removing it entirely? There are pretty big differences between each position.

    • 🎤Author
      6 years ago

      One clarification question: do you suggest lowering the age to 18, lowering it to something like 15-16, or removing it entirely? There are pretty big differences between each position.

      18 is fine, but a cultural understanding needs to arise in families that are not absolute teetotalers: Your kids are going to drink, it is better that they do it with you first.

      And remove the social stigmata surrounding this.

      Note: I DO NOT EXTEND THIS to the children of other families. The 'cool mom' that buys a 6pack for a sleepover should be charged and jailed.

      This is something that responsible parents should be expected to engage in once or twice at some point from 16-18 (15 in extreme intervention circumstances).

      Not as a regular thing, this defeats the purpose of the education, but as 'rites of passage'.

      Note I'm not referring to a sip of beer at a barbecue, I'm not really sure what those are supposed to serve, and didn't particularly enjoy them as a kid.

  • 6 years ago

    I think you have an interesting point. I also think that because I was allowed to drink wine as a child (for religious purposes,) this helped me have a more healthy relationship with alcohol. It also means I am more likely to enjoy alcohol for the flavor than because I want to get shitfaced.

    But you claim you have a decade of experience working in rehab, meaning the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was already firmly in place before you started that line of work. Therefore you don't have a complete "before-and-after" picture of how the policy has affected alcoholism.

    • 🎤Author
      6 years ago

      The age ranges we got were from 16 to 80, crossing all cultural and social strata.

      And I got a chance to talk intimately with many of them about their past.

      Our most at-risk for imminent death profiles were

      • Started drinking young
      • Started drinking without supervision
      • Drank daily and heavily for several years

      It came to the point where you could almost tell who would be hospitalized within the next year just by their history and attitude towards drinking.

      And the deaths were not just the old and pickled, I promise you.

  • 6 years ago

    So the federal drinking age was raised to 21 in 1984.

    Gallup has a poll question that asks "do you sometimes drink more than you should?" And it's been asked since 1978 (I'm on mobile, you can google it). It's a pretty flat trend thats mostly downward with volatility around years of economic downturn. Point being raising the age of consumption didn't change alcohol trends.

    • 🎤Author
      6 years ago

      Firstly, the prevalence of alcoholism is very hard to pin down because many will never self-report, and there are fewer of them than people realize.

      It's not that it is a sweeping epidemic across the country that makes it serious, it is the amazingly detrimental effect it has on those that cannot learn to control it.

      in a room of 100 people, 80 of them will have no problem having a glass of wine or a beer at a meal and not thinking about another drink for days or weeks, or ever even, without any emotional stress.

      15 of them will probably drink too much and too often in social settings, it will impair their lives occasionally but they live relatively normally. Then you have 3 who if given a chance will do nothing but drink until they can't afford to, then work just hard enough to get more to drink, repeat till organ failure. And you have 2 that will drink themselves to death before the age of 25.

      The above numbers are based off of my personal experiences as a volunteer at a non-profit rehab.

      My concern isn't for the 15, but for the 5, even though it is likely no force on earth can save the 2.

      In the cases of the '5's' (as I usually refer to them, chronic alcoholics on their way to organ failure), most of them started outside of parental supervision, with a prevalence in 'dry' households.

      And their attitude towards drinking is very infantile, they respond to it so childishly because they literally learned to drink as children, and their parents never were able to successfully exert control over their behaviors.

      And they come from all social strata, homeless teens to trust fund kiddies, and it is so amazingly tragic to watch helplessly while it happens, knowing that all it would have taken was a better foundation laid down before their habits became cemented.

    • 6 years ago

      Under reporting doesn't affect trends unless you want to argue that raising the drinking age made people less likely to report their drinking habits. So even if things are under reported, the trend doesn't change. Your argument is on trends, not sheer numbers.

      Do you have any sort of statistics to back that up? Otherwise you're not arguing facts, you're arguing feelings based on personal anecdotes. Say all you are arguing is true, what if raising the drinking age just shifted the age at which those things happen instead of changing the numbers? Or if it is true, do you have statistics that show how trends changed after 1984?

    • 🎤Author
      6 years ago

      Again, as I have pointed out several times in this thread, the sub's name is 'change my view' not 'defend my research'.

      My perspective has come from half a lifetime of personal experience in the addiction field, and cannot easily be broken down into pie charts and bar graphs.

      If you can bring statistics that refute my perspective, then that is what the sub is for, have at it.

  • 6 years ago

    While the central premise is true, the conclusions are bad.

    There hasn't been a swell in alcoholism since the 80's when the drinking age changed. There has been a swell in bing drinking at college parties.

    18 is the age when most people move out and go to college. Changing the age to 18 would only allow freshmen to legally engage in the binge drinking.

    A Much MUCH lower "Drinking age" is called for. It should be legal to give your own child One and only one drink with dinner. While such a law would be difficult to enforce, it would de-mystify drinking and make it so that drinking doesn't prove adultieness. One drink a few times a week with a large meal would also not run afoul of the health problems associated with children getting drunk regularly. Lastly having the drinking age be 6 would put the children still very much in an obey the parents childish mentality so that training on how to drink properly is actually training them how to drink properly.

    • 🎤Author
      6 years ago

      There hasn't been a swell in alcoholism since the 80's when the drinking age changed. There has been a swell in bing drinking at college parties.

      That's exactly my point, as mentioned elsewhere, this isn't a huge swell in alcoholism because so few people are actually alcoholics.

      The problem is that those that are are getting their first establishing experiences in 'frat party' like atmospheres that lead to chronic overindulgence lifestyles.

      You're actually re-illustrating my point and calling my conclusion bad...

    • 6 years ago

      Binge drinking =/= alcoholism

      The overindulgence that occurs at frat party like atmospheres isn't chronic or lifestyle. It's not leading to alcoholism.

      Also, changing the drinking age from college Junior to college Freshman won't actually change what your saying you want changed.

  • 6 years ago

    On mobile so I'll keep it brief.

    Alcoholism isn't the problem you are going to solve with a reduced drinking age. However, it may be that by decreasing the drinking age we allow parents to mentor their children and help them form more responsible habits when consuming alochol. This might lead to a decrease in some self destructive behavior such as unsafe sex, drunk driving, and alcohol poisoning but would lively have limited effected on alcoholism itself as alcoholism isn't a habit, it's an illness.

    I am concerned though that this may be one of those counter intuitive life lessons. Looking through history, everytime we've increased the age limit for things like alcohol and cigarettes, society has improved. I don't know the numbers well enough to compare drinking related issues in the US to other countries with reduced age limits such as Canada or the UK.

    • 🎤Author
      6 years ago

      Alcoholism isn't the problem

      Yes, you just summed up my entire argument.

      as alcoholism isn't a habit, it's an illness.

      To indulge the negative consumption associated with the illness, poor habits are usually to blame.

    • 6 years ago

      I think you need to go study alcoholism and other substance abuse problems more. Poor habits are associated with alcoholism, but bad habits are not the cause of alcoholism.

  • 6 years ago

    Do you have evidence that the existence of the drinking age prevents a parent from teaching their children how to drink properly in their own home? Also, there is evidence that drinking during the formative, growing years of the brain (which can last until age 21) can be extremely detrimental. Any decrease in the legal drinking age MUST be accompanied by education about the deleterious effects of alcohol upon a growing brain.

    Furthermore, when compared to other recreational drugs, alcohol is one of the worse ones, but the reason it is so popular is that people don't know this and see their role models and movie characters like James Bond drink a lot. More progress might be made targeting the movies and tv shows where alcohol producers pay big bucks to feature their alcohol, as we made a dent in smoking by targeting the mediums in which it was advertised.

    • 🎤Author
      6 years ago

      Do you have evidence that

      I think you misunderstand the purpose of this subreddit.

      I have a personal perspective that I have developed over decades of personal experience, and I have distilled that down to a few paragraphs.

      Not for review of statistics, or to laboriously produce a list of scholarly references to support my perspective.

      The purpose of this sub is for you to 'change my view', to refute my perspective, and you can't refute my perspective by asking me for a list of references that I used to formulate this perspective.

      You can argue that my perspective is incorrect, and provide support for your argument, which I will review and respond to.

      But I can't give you the page reference and column code for every single piece of datum that I've researched and accumulated over the last thirty years of my life.

      And you can't convince me I'm wrong by asking for references.

      alcohol is one of the worse ones,

      I'm not disagreeing with you on this, like I said I have very personal experience with people whom it has literally destroyed their lives and bodies.

      The thing is, it has been a part of human existence since before history, nearly every culture in every age has had some perspective on alcohol even if they themselves were a 'dry culture'.

      So, in short, it's not going away any time soon.

      And there are some very rich people who are personally vested in its continued inclusion in human culture.

      So the answer is education.

      and DARE type programs don't work.

      But witty uncles and nosy grandmas, and cool dads do work. Consistently.

      Where is the proof of this you ask? Where is the reference and bar graphs and wikipedia links?

      How about this: The human race managed to mostly survive in a 300 year period where pretty much everyone drank all the time.

      At work, at home, everywhere.

      Sure there were teetotallers, but they were the exception not the rule.

      3 martini lunches were still common when I was just getting into the corporate world, attended a few myself until moral outrage made them obsolete.

      I'm not saying alcohol is good, I know exactly how bad it can be. I drink rarely myself. What I am saying is that the healthiest way to establish good drinking habits is to experience one or two really memorable (and highly supervised) morality lessons in overindulgence in an (obfuscatedly) controlled environment.

      And that is most effectively accomplished by close family members when the child is old enough to handle it but young enough to not be full of themselves yet.

      So roughly 16-ish, ymmv.

    • 6 years ago

      As the person proposing the argument, the onus is upon you to produce the evidence of your position.

      Secondly, they survived for 300 years because you can produce babies at age 16 and drinking alcoholic water (because the alcohol kills the bacteria) is healthier than drinking dirty water.

    • 🎤Author
      6 years ago

      No, I am not proposing the argument, I have already accepted the argument.

      It is up to you to 'change my view', the sub isn't called 'defend your position'.

    • 6 years ago

      Okay here is a simple one. A legal drinking age does absolutely nothing to rates of alcoholism. Here shows United States has less than the average amount of alcohol disorders among men and women 15 years old or older. Here is a chart of legal drinking age that you can compare to the countries' rate of alcoholism. It is not correlated at all.

  • 5 years ago

    i'm late to the party here, but here's my argument:

    Sure, sure, in places like Germany and Spain and Canada and what not where the drinking age is relatively low there are fewer alcoholics. But, the main reason for why it's still 21 is that the part of the brain that involves responsible decision making isn't developed until around the age of 21. That's why.

    I know it sucks, but I'm really tired right now.

    • 🎤Author
      5 years ago

      Wow, really late to the party. I had to go back and re-read the thread to get back into the proper mindset.

      that the part of the brain that involves responsible decision making isn't developed until around the age of 21.

      That's where training comes into play. Training can supplant poor decision making skills by 'already having the decision made for you'.

      I'll share an anecdote from my past.

      I'm old enough that when I was a lad the drinking age was 18.

      The day after my 17th birthday, my uncles and stepdad got together with a keg, and told me 'Well, you're not 17 anymore cause we're rounding up, time to learn to drink'.

      And they got me stupidly shitfaced. And took polaroids of it. Many, many polaroids.

      After sobering up from my first ever hangover (I had had a few drinks in the past but never 'drunk drunk'), I then looked on in horror at the photos. No I'm not telling you what they were about (though it was completely legal, just wildly embarrassing).

      And every time afterward, when I was encouraged to overconsume by my friends, I remembered those pictures.

      Sure my decision making process wasn't fully mature yet, the shame that I had experienced acted as a very good invisible chaperone, encouraging me to drink responsibly just in case I were to repeat said embarrassments.

      And they kept those photos as blackmail for quite some time, though that's a different story...

  • 6 years ago

    I saw my father dive headlong into drunken stupor before driving halfway home every day. My stepfather literally drank himself to death. Moderation was never taught me, but I realized when I was driving home one day craving that next bottle that I was headed there. Most people never see the slide before they are already barrelling headfirst down it. It doesn't matter What your taught by parents, you can still make your own choices. When my father and stepfather were 18, the drinking age was 18. They both had very moderate (one southern Baptist) families who didn't help change a thing for all their efforts. I however grew up with 21, and didnt have that support. I don't think the age matters that much, but I do agree that parents reaching at a young age what alcohol is van seriously help. I've given my kids tastes of my drinks and they understand its not magic. It's just a chemical that causes your body to lose focus. It can be pleasant in moderation and horrible in excess. The teaching part never worked for my father or stepfather, maybe because of the extreme angle it came from. I hope it works for my kids because they have the potential in them to become alcoholics. I barely escaped that fate through sheer stubbornness amd self reflection.

    • 🎤Author
      6 years ago

      Not everyone can be saved, this is a grim truth in the recovery field. Some people just burn the candle too hard.

  • 6 years ago

    To OP's question: there's some evidence that indicates the age increase actually decreased alcohol related fatalities. The biggest problem with the 21 year-old age limit is the means of enforcement. At colleges, most of the enforcement duties fall upon the university administrations, which often don't want to spend the time or money on developing substance abuse resources, and the campus police which typically only get involved if parties get out of hand. As other users have pointed out, DARE has failed, and schools are not the ideal place to reinforce safe drinking habits. As you said, it often starts in the home. To that effect, I do think parents should not be afraid to offer their teenage children alcohol in small amounts under supervision. I can agree with you that there are reasons to reduce the drinking age, but I do not think it creates or reinforces alcoholism.

    As a matter of fact, I'd rather see a higher driving age and a lower drinking age. There are a significant amount of non-alcohol related fatalities due to driver inexperience, overconfidence, and distraction. Ideally, safe drinking habits should come before safe-driving habits.

    • 6 years ago

      Most of them started young, 12-14. And they started hardcore, and never really stopped, and never learned to stop, and never learned why they even would want to stop.

      And they never had a chance to have guidance from their family on how not to be stupid in consumption.

      Working in a detox, you must be familiar with terms like "co-occurring disorders" and "dual diagnoses."

      If you were to create a venn diagram of people who struggle with mental health disorders and people who struggle with substance use disorders, the circles of the two groups would nearly completely overlap.

      Generally speaking, the people you mention above are different than the people in the at-large population. Part of how they're different is what they're dealing with and part of how they're different is how they're dealing with it. Whether it be trauma, behavioral, or any other considered mental illness, these kids are having a rougher time than most. Add to that a support system that is either non-existent, part of the problem, or just unable to help, and you have a person in need of escape. When you're young, you're limited in ways to do this. You often rely on peer groups and the examples set by parents, both of which can be horrible choices. Parents drink. Relatives drink. Friends drink.

      Alcohol can be such a mindless, simple, escape. It's not difficult to get. For someone struggling and with little in the way of social support, it can be the perfect thing. So, "why stop? School's a joke, mom doesn't notice, no one is getting hurt. It's just weekends. It's not even true what they say about it killing brain cells, you know... "

      Question: how should recovering alcoholics teach their children about alcohol? Do you think everyone should have an uncle who likes to take kids into the wilderness with his hunting buddies and get them puke drunk? Should we teach children traffic safety by sending them to live with a crippled relative until the child is struck by a vehicle? Should we teach children safe knife usage by inviting a cousin over to the house to cut them?

      Anecdotal: I am teaching my children about substance use with open communication and by example. It's also how i strive to teach them about other things. I don't understand how intoxicating substances should be different.

      TL;DR: Your solution doesn't understand the problem. Alcohol training isn't a thing for rational humans.

      • 6 years ago

        You would have to show that lowering the drinking age would lead to less harm through a reduction of total number of alcoholics.

        To do that you would need to know exactly what causes alcoholism.

        That in and of itself is a complex field. There are studies showing genetic factors, such that even a few sips of alcohol at the age of 18, would create an alcoholic. These people have a propensity for becoming addicted.

        By lowering the drinking age you make it easier for reckless teenagers to become alcoholics. By waiting those same people might avoid drinking altogether or may avoid binge drinking due to being more mature at an older wiser age.

        Alcoholism is a very very complex topic, and it's too simplistic to say lowering the drinking age will atomically create less alcoholics

        If you're honest with yourself, you would agree with me, and thus you would have to change your view that the drinking age of people is in some how related to alcoholism; a very unscientific assessment about a topic needing much much more research.

        If anything you could increase alcoholism by allowing teenagers access to something they shouldn't have, like giving a gun to a 10 year old.

        The truth is we just don't know enough about alcoholism to make such drastic conclusions, and that is the most scientifically rigorous assessment we have with our current data set.

        We need more data before changing the age, hoping it would reduce alcoholism.

        Edit: Expanded more on idea.

        • 6 years ago

          I think the point no one has brought up yet is that cultural attitudes towards drinking in the USA are still going to be largely anti-youth-drinking regardless of whether the age is 18 or 21, and parents who don't let their kids drink some at home now aren't going to let their kids drink at home either way. This is all because of the Puritanical history of the US, since those types of people are who settled much of it. That's also why the country has such a stronger Christian majority than Europe. The most conservative, religious wackos who were too much for Europe at the time came here to practice their brand of witch burning, uber-Christianity here. Their no fun, no dancing, no non-marital sex, no mind altering, etc. legacy remains in the form of the taboo surrounding nudity, sex, alcohol, etc. in this country.

          So while I agree that taking booze off the pedestal so kids' first experience with alcohol isn't chugging the bottle of liquor their friend stole from the liquor cabinet at his parents' house is the right thing to do, I don't think American society is anywhere near the point where kids are going to grow up being slowly introduced to booze by their parents. This remains true regardless of what the drinking age actually is, because the parents are still the gatekeeper of alcohol within their own homes (obviously until the kids are old enough to start finding ways to get it on their own).

          • 6 years ago

            If we're allowing anecdotal evidence, most people I knew in college who were really interested in drinking and drinking culture started drinking before 21, and the ones who weren't (like myself) didn't really drink before they turned 21, nor afterwards. I was even one of those people who got completely wasted off free bar shots on my 21st birthday. I don't even know a single person who was straight-laced before turning 21 and then suddenly became a raging alcoholic.

            Counter-point, I do know a few people that died in college, presumably related to drug overdoses... the kids think they're immortal and when someone finally lets go of their reigns, they go a bit crazy. I don't think those drugs they died from were legal at any age though.

            • 6 years ago

              Bear in mind, the laws on alcohol are complex and uneven across the country. In some places it's illegal to be found to have alcohol in one's system under 21, in others it's illegal to be in-posession, in others it's illegal to try to purchase, and in others the law is written where it's illegal to purchase if under 21, but it's not illegal to sell to under 21. I'm thinking Louisiana with that last one.

              So, discussing the one that's probably closest to ubiquitous, which is buying under 21. Think back to high school. You probably were acquainted with students that were older than you. Given that high school covers a four year window for most people that's an age range of around 14 for the youngest to around 19 for the oldest. You might have remained friends with those that were older than you, but for how long after they graduated? You might have been friends with people younger than you, but for how long after you graduated?

              My point in asking is that once you're sufficiently out of high school your attitudes change, your friendships change. The ~2-3 years between graduating high school and being old enough to purchase alcohol gives the graduate time to stop associating with juveniles so that the person is less likely to buy alcohol for the juveniles. Obviously it doesn't eliminate it entirely, but it makes it a little harder for actual minors under 18 to get their hands on alcohol.

              Back to my discussion of the patchwork of laws, if a state does not criminalize minors in-possession when they're in the company of their parents then parents are free to introduce alcohol and behavior even with laws that prohibit purchase.

              I started drinking before it was legal, but I was over eighteen and had my own apartment. I usually hosted my friends and they brought the alcohol as many were 21 or older. I did not drive after drinking, that's a good part of why I hosted, and we didn't drink ourselves sick or to blackout. So it is possible for people to learn how to handle alcohol without their parents' guidance.

              • 6 years ago

                I'm not getting it... you said yourself most of the hardcore alcoholics started well before the legal age. Why would changing the legal age matter at all then? They'll still start at 12-14 and they'll still never learn to stop.

                What's different in your scenario... that our culture will make it normal for parents to guide teenagers while they drink?

                That only works if they choose to drink at home and at an appropriate age. It doesn't do anything for the 12-14 year olds who presumably are doing it out of sight of their parents, with the full knowledge that they wouldn't approve and that their actions are illegal.

                • 6 years ago

                  It's not the age, it's the culture. Russia, Australia and the UK all have lower drinking ages and more severe drinking problems than the US, whereas France, Spain, and Italy also have lower drinking ages, but have much less severe problems with drinking.

                  • 6 years ago

                    "So, I feel that by raising the drinking age to 21...."

                    "I feel..." Well there's your problem. See the fact is that although you have a lot of experience dealing with alcoholics doesn't that make you more biased to think that it is an increasing problem even if it isn't? And it could be increasing but maybe only in the area in which you work?

                    I don't mean to be rude but you say you have a decade of work with alcoholics but wouldn't it be more pertinent to get the thoughts from someone who was working with alcoholics around the time of the increase of the drinking age (the 70s or 80s I believe)? If alcoholism is only on the rise in the last decade then wouldn't that point to something else as a potential cause? If it was the increase in drinking age that causes an increase in alcoholism, those people would have likely noticed.

                    • 6 years ago

                      I'm from the UK, drinking age is 18, most people start drinking between 13/14 - 16, I've been drinking since about 15 and now that I'm 20 the idea of getting shit faced and waking up in a ditch is just not appealing anymore, me and my friends will go to the pub on a Friday and have a round or 5 and chat and the whole thing is chill, mayb a drink or 2 with a meal nothing insane. Obviously there's still a lot of parties but everyone knows how to handle themselves and people tend to stop when they're feeling it. Just my experience, if I couldn't go to a pub until I was 21 I don't know what the hell I'd be doing on a Friday, probably sit in a park drinking stolen beer and setting fire to a bin like when I was younger.

                      • 6 years ago

                        I'm not sure simply shifting the drinking age to an early year would make a difference as far as your concerns go, right? It would just be leaping into binge drinking at 18 instead of 21.

                        As a matter of fact, there is a pretty good workaround for this, which is that you are allowed to drink with parental/guardian supervision in many states legally at a young(er) age. All around the East Coast you can get booze with your folks and you're allowed to drink on private property with their supervision. In Jersey, you can drink by yourself on your own property without any supervision.

                        The problem is that these are almost unenforced or completely unknown blue laws. If more people recognized that these laws existed and did have a purpose, and they took advantage of them, I think we would have a better situation and it would be a solution that actually does work towards this educated drinking upbringing that you seem to want.

                        I also want to go on a bit of a tangent here and say that I don't think any of this will ever happen because as much as an advocate of lowering the drinking age I was when I was 19, after I turned 21 I immediately stopped giving a shit about the injustice of not being able to go to a bar when I was 19, and now I'm actually just sort of glad that that teenagers can't drink because I think it would bum me out having a bunch of them at a bar.

                        I suspect others similarly lost motivation to do anything to fix this after they turned 21.

                        • 6 years ago

                          I agree wholeheartedly with your intent, and wish the overall idea of alcohol "training wheels" was a public discussion (wouldn't things like this make so much more sense to discuss on the news than the Kardashians?)

                          I also agree that having a drinking age sets a "starting line" that everyone is going to hit - I have always firmly believe that most people who wouldn't drink at all end up drinking simply because they turned 21, and that's what we do at 21, right?

                          However, not many families actually would be trustable, caring, embarrassing, mentors. This is especially true because, as you pointed out, our current generation is a culture of binge drinkers, and a change in the drinking age wouldn't have retroactive effects - it would mean our children can become our new drinking buddies younger.

                          I think, much as decent parents resist things like this being discussed in schools, alcohol, taxes, driving, nutrition, sex, communication, and other life-skills that parents should, but don't always, teach, should be taught in a guaranteed course in public high school.

                          At least trying to propose such a required class would get this conversation into the public conversation. Because I agree; many of the things that good parents teach their children get learned, but also taken for granted. Those children assume everyone's parents taught their kids those life lessons. That simply isn't true though.

                          • 🎤Author
                            6 years ago

                            However, not many families actually would be trustable, caring, embarrassing, mentors

                            True, but we let them have kids anyway... smh...

                        • 6 years ago

                          The legal drinking age here is largely irrelevant to your claim.

                          Why do I say that?

                          Because teaching children to drink is largely possible in most states anyway There are 10 states where the parent can order drinks for a child in public.

                          To refute your claim, all that is necessary is to show that in the 29 states where parents can teach children how to drink in the home, that the rate of alcoholism in the young adult population is statistically significantly lower.

                          While I can't find the exact data I to do such a study, I did find alcohol and drug arrest / discipline information for college campuses.

                          For the states where drinking in the home is allowed, the average rate of campus related alcohol incidents is 2.03 per 1,000 students with a std. dev of 2.52.

                          For the overall US the average rate is 2.22 per 1,000 students with a std. dev. of 2.7

                          While more analysis can be done, the idea that these are two VERY different populations seems suspect at best to me.

                          • 6 years ago



                            15.5% of Canadians have a drinking problem. That's 34,750,000 people.

                            15.8% of Quebecois have a drinking problem. There's 8,000,000 of them and the drinking age starts at 18.

                            24.7% of Americans have a drinking problem:


                            All of your reasoning aside, the statistics would seem to support a lower drinking age for mitigating alcohol overuse. The only "CMV" I have is that your theories and reasons may or may not be correct - I don't really care. I think it should be lowered to 18 if not 16. Then again, I also think provisional legal adulthood should start at 16, but that's another discussion.

                            Regardless, the stats matter most and 18 is not the end of the world. As an American living in Canada, I assure you that drinking/party culture is way more prevalent in the USA.

                            • 6 years ago

                              Okay it's actually legal in many states for minors to drink at home with parents. But regardless ; many parents would do it anyway law or no law if they saw it fit. The police don't know everything your doing at all times. And the mindset that " a minors first drink should be with mom or dad" is actually really common. In fact, many families with lots of alcohol use and drug use tend to be the first place teens develop their alcohol habits from. However, a lot of families don't pass good habits.

                              I grew up In a sober family. I never had problems drinking. I was talked to about alcohol by both my dad and school without getting hammered. I drank /drink illegally , but in extremely low amounts. The law just keeps me from going to bars or buying booze. But there are fake Ids and plenty of ways to get alcohol if I wanted.

                              Maybe more parents should talk about how to have safesex , drink responsibly, etc. But not actively condone it.

                              • 6 years ago

                                If this were true, you'd expect that the US would have a bigger problem with alcoholism than in Europe, where standard of living is similar but the drinking age is mostly 18 or even less. That's not the case. Europeans drink more and have more alcohol related deaths.

                                So that's across countries. We can also do within country comparisons over time because the drinking age changed from 18 to 21 in 1984. If it was detrimental, we might expect to see a big increase in problems with alcoholism. Again, that's not the case. Alcohol related traffic fatalities are down since then even more than non-alcohol related.

                                So, comparing across countries and across time, we have no evidence to suggest you're correct and the only evidence we do have suggests you are incorrect.



                                • 6 years ago


                                  Compared with a wide range of other programs and efforts to reduce drinking among teenagers, increasing the legal age for purchase and consumption of alcohol to 21 appears to have been the most successful effort to date (compare studies summarized in Table I with studies cited in reviews of other prevention efforts such as Moskowitz [1989] and Gorman and Speer [1996]). The magnitude of effects of the age-21 policy may appear small, particularly in studies using weak research designs and having low levels of statistical power. However, even modest effects applied to the entire population of youth result in very large societal benefits. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, using an average estimated reduction in traffic fatalities due to the legal drinking age of 13%, calculates that the age-21 policy prevented 846 deaths in 1997 and prevented a total of 17,359 deaths since 1975 (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1998).


                                  Recent research has examined the relative contribution of these policies and found that, in addition to the effect of the national minimum legal drinking age of 21 years, each of these policy restrictions is independently associated with lower levels of drinking and alcohol-involved fatalities among youths aged younger than 21 years. Drinking among youths and college students varies by state and is strongly associated with the level of drinking among adults and state alcohol control policies. States that had more alcohol control policies and laws to complement the minimum legal drinking age of 21 years had lower levels of drinking and related problems among underage youths.


                                  • 6 years ago

                                    1) Drinking age in most State if it is mentored (parental supervision) is whatever age the parent wants. So it is already legal for children to receive the guidance you are wanting. It just does not happen much.

                                    2) All statistics prove you wrong. Drinking age use to be 18, and in some States as low as 16. When they raised the drinking age to 21 it reduced all alcohol related deaths for those under the age of 18 by 60%, and for those 19-21 by 40%. Simply making it so that high schoolers do not have easy access to alcohol from older classmates or friends recently graduated has saved tons of lives.

                                    3) Drinking related accidents in all of society has been trending down over the last two decades, not up. It is still a problem because there are still idiots who drink and drive, or who binge drink and get poisoned but it is happening less often not more.

                                    • 6 years ago

                                      I'm 17 years old and have had my share of a few drinks over the past year or so. I only consume alcohol only around the supervision of my parents where they encourage me to take a few sips. On the occasion I have taken very light shots (less than a quarter of a shot glass) of 50% proof alcoholic drinks such as Scotch.

                                      When I drink those, I feel a slight burn in either my liver/abdomen/stomach area. I feel like the reason why the age was set to 21 was because of health concerns, but seeing how some countries have the drinking age even lower, I'm not sure what the risks are of consuming small quantities of alcohol at an adult post-teenage stage of my life, but I'm guessing that's why it was set to 21.

                                      On a side note, if the drinking age was lowered, does that mean that nightclub age entries would also be lowered?

                                      • 6 years ago

                                        The CDC monitored the effects of the 21 year old minimum drinking age as it was rolled out nationally between 1985 and 1990. The results were a drop in adverse outcomes like alcohol poisoning and alcohol related diving deaths which are associated with binge drinking and alcoholism. They also observed that individuals drank less alcohol between the ages of 18-20 (which is expected), and that it also resulted in a drop in alcohol consumption in those between 21-25.

                                        Other studies have looked at the rates of alcohol consumption between Europe (where the drinking age remains lower) and the USA. US policies appear to show a clear benefit in terms of reducing the issues related to alcoholism (Iceland is a notable exception to this trend).

                                        • 6 years ago

                                          It may surprise you to learn that the legal drinking age is actually lower inost states depending on drinking context.

                                          These restrictions include things like "if on private property where no sales are taking place and a parent agrees, a minor can drink." And these restrictions are not to 18 years, but rather any age subject to parental judgement.

                                          Further, these laws have been around longer than the 21 year drinking age.

                                          You should check if your state is on the list of these laws, but given this, it means that all of your anecdotal evidence may have already been with a lower drinking age than you thought.

                                          • 6 years ago

                                            The legal drinking age is lower in other countries, yet they still have alcoholism issues.

                                            I couldn't find a site with better data, but this lists the US at 39th for alcohol related deaths.


                                            That could mean car accidents as well, if you factor in the US being in the 100s for deaths by kidney disease, it puts them even lower on the chart.

                                            So there really is less of a correlation between the legal drinking age and alcoholism than you believe.

                                            I do think that the drinking age should be lowered, but only because most (anecdotal) people drink before they're 21 anyway.

                                            • 6 years ago

                                              Your view seems to be founded on the idea that a majority of people start drinking at 21, not before. The thing is, adding the drinking age minimum doesn't stop kids from drinking. 80% of underage college students drink. Kids who are underage can get their hands on alcohol very easily- the drinking age of 21 does very little to stop those under 21 from drinking- it just stops them from doing it in places like bars and clubs.


                                              • 6 years ago

                                                I would say I agree and disagree. In the UK the drinking age is 18 and it still isn't great, students at university still do lots of stupid things. In part the problem of Alcoholism seems to be happiness, people who are satisfied with their lives feel less of a need to use drugs and alcohol. I would at best argue, alcohol in social settings should be sold to under 21s with the ability to revoke that right and be banned at anymore while the sale of alcohol in stores etc. is still 21.

                                                • 6 years ago

                                                  I'm alcoholic and grew up in the UK where the drinking age is lower and most folks begin drinking in their early teens.

                                                  The defining symptom of alcoholism is not being able to stop after the first drink. This rings true whether a person starts drinking at 14 or 30.

                                                  Every single alcoholic I have met in the AA rooms says the same. Once we start we cannot stop. When we start is really irrelevant.

                                                  • 6 years ago

                                                    I believe the main reason the age is twenty one is to prevent widespread alcohol at the high school level. I just turned 18 and I'm going into senior year of high school. If the age was 18 I could easily supply any high school party with legally I stained alcohol as a student. The amount of underage drinking would probably go up because of this.

                                                    • 6 years ago

                                                      it's worth knowing that in many states you can drink under 21 if under parental supervision, which means that you could have parents teach their children about drinking if you could get over the cultural barrier.

                                                      it's not that I don't support your position (I do) but there is a way to get what you want without lowering the general drinking age.

                                                      • 6 years ago
                                                        • 6 years ago

                                                          Australia has a drinking age of 18 and youth binge drinking is one of the biggest problems currently facing the alcohol-related health industry. And on top of that, if any country has a culture of parents giving their kids drinks earlier in life, it's Australia.

                                                          The drinking age does not solve a thing.

                                                          • 6 years ago

                                                            Umm... 18 is when kids move out to go to college. What extra chance is this realistically going to give anyone?

                                                            On the flip side, if you make legal drinking age 18, then some significant fraction of high school students will legally be able to buy alcohol... for their underage friends at high school.

                                                            • 6 years ago

                                                              One of the most compelling reasons to keep the drinking age at 21 is to keep alcohol out of high school (to the degree possible, of course). Right now, college seniors buy alcohol for college freshmen. If the drinking age was 18, high school seniors would buy alcohol for high school freshmen

                                                              • 6 years ago

                                                                Off topic but I think the drinking age for fermented drinks like beer and wine should be 18 and the drinking age of distilled drinks like whiskey and vodka should be 21.

                                                                • 🎤Author
                                                                  6 years ago

                                                                  That kind of makes sense, I can get behind that.

                                                              • 6 years ago

                                                                It's been quite a long time since 21 became the drinking age. Millennials are not the only group who grew up with it. Your points have applied for decades, yet most people didn't become alcoholics. I'm a gen Xer and I did most of my drinking before I turned 21.

                                                                • 6 years ago

                                                                  We have a legal drinking age of 18 in the UK, doesn't mean people aged 16-20 don't all drink like idiots (I certainly did). Drinking In a pub certainly doesn't mean you don't go and down triple shots of vodka at a house party at the weekend.

                                                                  • 6 years ago

                                                                    I don't know the right answer in terms of it being 18 or 21, but imagine if there was no legal age, no HUGE HYPE of getting wasted, no big deal to go out at your 21st b-day. It would be desensitized, like in many European countries.

                                                                    • 6 years ago

                                                                      I live in Czech republic and 90% of the people I know (my generation, Im 19) started drinking at the age of 14-16, 9% at 17, 0.9 at 13 and the rest 18+. Like what the fuck is with legal drinking age, nobody gives a fuck right?

                                                                      • 6 years ago
                                                                        • 6 years ago

                                                                          "And in most circumstances, those people that drink responsibly were indoctrinated in the responsibilities of drinking at home by their parents."

                                                                          I'm just not sure how true this is.

                                                                          • 6 years ago

                                                                            I know that someone in medicine said that alcohol was harmful to teenagers brain and I know that around age 20 your brain fully develops. I personally don't drink.

                                                                            • 6 years ago

                                                                              Since America seems to shy away from things like sex-ed I would take a wild guess and say the main problem here is education and not drinking age ?

                                                                              • 6 years ago

                                                                                I'm not sure it would effect rates of alcoholism, but it would certainly effect drug use. After all you don't need ID to buy drugs...

                                                                                • 6 years ago

                                                                                  According to AA, one of the main hallmarks of alcoholism is that you are unable to learn to drink responsibly.

                                                                                  • 6 years ago

                                                                                    my opinion on alcohol age limits, beer and cider at 16, wine at 18, hard liquor at 21.

                                                                                    • 6 years ago

                                                                                      Binge drinking and unsupervised drinking doesn't create alcoholics - employment does.

                                                                                      • 6 years ago

                                                                                        The drinking age limit is great once you're over 21. I don't want to drink in the same space as a bunch of 16 year olds or undergraduates.

                                                                                        • 6 years ago

                                                                                          OP, if we are concerned about creating more alcoholics why not make production and consumption of alcohol illegal?

                                                                                          • 6 years ago

                                                                                            One problem with this argument is that it ignores the epidemiological work done on underage/teen drinking.

                                                                                            Teen drinking is associated with a significantly higher risk of alcoholism, and that risk goes up further the earlier the exposure to alcohol was (

                                                                                            This is aside from potential long-term developmental consequences of teen drinking. Myelination of the frontal/prefrontal cortex (areas responsible for judgment) continues throughout the teen years (and well into the 20s), as does synaptic refinement in areas responsible for stress management ( Multiple studies have shown that alcohol use during this developmental period can delay or interrupt long term these processes.

                                                                                            From a developmental perspective, one can almost make the argument the drinking age is still too low.

                                                                                            • 6 years ago

                                                                                              You do not want 18-year-olds in your local bar, trust me.