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.
- 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.