Sunday, August 5, 2012

(Don't) Blame it on the A-A-A-A-A-A-Alcohol

   What do helping decide the next leader of the United States, becoming a stripper, buying cigarettes, being entitled to minimum wage, starting a 401k plan, adopting a child, getting a tattoo, giving sexual consent, changing your legal name, winding up in county jail, and being blown to pieces in Afghanistan have in common? You can do them all when you're 18. 

   I've supported the movement to bring the national drinking age down for a while now. Blame my Russian heritage or my multiple trips to Europe, but I believe that the only accomplishment of the current '21 law'  is the generous contribution of community service hours spent picking up litter from our highways by 'underage' teens and college students. 


     Let's face it, we all do a lot of stupid sh*t when we're young. Among taking up parkour and attempting the Cinnamon Challenge, excessive drinking is no exception. We watch our parents or relatives drink at the dinner table, and in our minds, alcohol becomes just another right of passage into adulthood, like driving, having a credit card, or going to a hookah bar. However, just like with all the other rights of passage, many teens and college students tend to go a bit overboard when they are first introduced to it and find themselves waking up on a friend's ping pong table with a phallus drawn in Sharpie in across their forehead.

    Alcohol can be dangerous in large quantities, yes, but it is also used by many as a nerve tonic to help them socialize or relax. But regardless of why we drink it, I believe that the age to purchase and drink alcohol should be moved back down to 18 for the simple reason that we are allowed access to a variety of more harmful substances and practices at that age.

     At 18, we can decide to sign up for military service. We are allowed to choose to put our bodies in danger of mortar fire, shell bombardments, and machine gun fire in the service of our country, yet aren't allowed to decide whether they want to kill a few brain cells with friends? I'd choose a shot of vodka over a shot in the foot any day. Michelle Hamilton, a coordinator at an Adolescent Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition in  Connecticut states that, "An adolescent's brain is not fully developed until the early to mid-20s" and that "Youth who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence as an adult than those who wait until age 21". Hamilton seems to be very concerned about teens inflicting permanent damage to their growing bodies bodies. To this I must ask, "What has a greater potential to be permanently scarring, a couple sporadic alcohol-involved high school parties or a rocket-launcher to the skull?" The current law allows one to choose a violent death before being able to choose how many olives you want in your martini. 

    Speaking of unhealthy practices, let's talk smoking. Cigarettes can be just as harmful to one's overall health as regular, intensive drinking. However, the real harm in cigarettes comes from the unavoidable addiction that is formed when one smokes regularly. To clarify, there are two types of addiction: habit and dependence. Both alcohol and cigarettes often come with habit addiction; one gets the urge to smoke or drink around a certain group of people or at a certain time of day. But the real danger comes from the chemical dependence, which often branches off of habit addiction simply because one's body becomes accustomed to the regular intake of a substance. On average, one month of regular social smoking is enough to land a chemical dependence on nicotine. The most a month of social drinking can get you would be a small beer belly, and thats under the assumption that you're drinking some pretty lousy beer. In conclusion, 18- year-olds get  the chance to legally plunge themselves into a potentially fatal lifelong addiction before they're allowed to have a drink with friends.

   I believe lowering the drinking age would not only eliminate unnecessary scars on minor's records, but also decrease the amount of heavy drug involvement in the youth population. This is only an inference, but I predict that if college kids could satisfy their need for stupidity in minimally harmful and legal way, they would be less inclined to look for alternative methods to get a buzz. 

-Julia Chinchillia 

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  1. but you cant rent a car till you're twenty five! :P jk jk good article.. very smart points but there are some flaws with the 18 year olds getting alcohol.