Essay, Research Paper
For thousands of years alcohol has been regarded by society as a temporary escape from reality and the tensions of everyday life. People use alcohol to reduce stress, to relax, and to enjoy a good evening. This should be the real purpose of alcohol drinking. This is the way in which alcohol should be looked upon. There should be no reason for alcohol drinking to be looked upon as negative action. Drinking alcohol however, is in fact regarded as a negative action by society and the government. This is not because of the action drinking alcohol itself but actually because of the abuse people undertake with such an action. Alcohol reduces the ability of a human being to undergo the basic and every day thought processes, in such a way impeding a person under the influence of alcohol to engage in regular and everyday events. Arguably, the problem of alcohol drinking counts for one of the largest threats to human life in the world. This is due to the high number of fatalities occurring from alcohol related murders, fights, and most of all- traffic accidents. Alcohol abuse impairs a human?s ability to drive a vehicle and consequently creates simple grounds for death from a car collision. In the United States alone, drinking and driving accidents account for the number one cause of death among all age groups, mainly however, young adults and late teenagers. Youth in the United States is suffering from a high number of fatalities and injuries caused from falls, burns, crashes, drowning, violence, suicide, and poisoning- where the highest percentage of these accidents are related to alcohol. Due to the fact that alcohol abuse is such a high cause for morbidity and injury, governments and societies of countries all over the world concentrate on different techniques and methods in which to decrease these regrettable incidents. The problem is however, alcohol cannot be completely abolished. Drinking alcohol has formed such a large part of life and society that it is too late for a complete elimination. The only thing that can be done is to find ways in which to decrease its consumption. As far as decreasing drinking abuse in general, there are two main controlling points: education and the legal drinking age. Most countries have different drinking ages, most ranging from 18 to 21. The United States has a drinking age of 21 but certainly, in juxtaposition to other countries, does not have the least alcohol consumption per capita. The best things that governments and societies can use to decrease alcohol consumption are these two controlling points mentioned above (Wood 47). Drinking age, in a large part is correlated to maturity. When a person is believed to be mature, this person can be said to have the ability to take on privileges and responsibilities only a mature person can handle. One of these is the drinking of alcohol. Therefore, the best age for the legal privilege for drinking alcohol is that where an average person is said to be mature- 18 years of age.
The United States has been trying to eliminate alcohol abuse ever since the 1850?s when some of the states declared a law of complete abolishment for alcohol. Because of the highly negative results which this law provided, the law had to be eliminated. Once again in 1920, the United States declared complete abolishment but this time for the whole nation. This produced public demonstrations, economic failure, and most importantly, drug consumption went up dramatically. Most people stopped drinking alcohol but referred to even worse addictive drugs such as marijuana and cocaine. Finally, this law had to be eliminated and the drinking age remained 18 until 1984 when the drinking age was declared to be 21. So far, over 15 years have gone by and the results do not seem to be very positive. A question that many people explore is that of why 21? The government of the United States has in many occasions referred to psychological research and used these tests as a way to declare the average maturity age. From these, the average maturity level was found to be 18 years of age (Presley et al. 190). Because of this, the United States used 18 years as the legal minimum for all of the privileges and responsibilities which could only be handed to mature people. They did not however, declare drinking age as one of these privileges and for this reason declared the legal minimum for alcohol consumption to be 21; Without any determined reason. None of the reasons given for this has ever been effective enough as to prove a real claim.
Research has been provided to the government and to media representatives which provided with very positive results ever since the 1980?s. These results represented a decline in alcohol consumption since the start of the decade of the 80?s. Also, there was a decrease in the amount of car crashes involving alcohol and a decrease in the amount of alcohol consumed per capita (Presley et al. 150). This decrease in the amount of alcohol consumption though, cannot be said to be due to the raise in the drinking age because they started in the early 1980?s, not in 1984 or later. Therefore, this decline is not due to the raise of the drinking age but only to the realization of people as to the harm of alcohol and other factors such as education, concern from society, designated driver programs, increased seat belt and air bag usage, safer cars, lower speed limits, free taxi services from drinking establishments, among others.
This research however, did also produce some negative outcomes. The research showed that there was an increase in the amount of alcohol intoxications and other problems relating to heavy consumption of alcohol. This was the main problem after the drinking age was raised to 21, even thought the population overall did not consume as much alcohol, when they did consume, they would not drink responsibly and therefore end in tragic poisoning and sometimes intoxication. Also, in the late 1980?s after the law for 21 was passed, the number of people who reported puking after drinking had a dramatic rise (Rogers 24). This is mainly due to three factors: the raise in the drinking age, the consideration of alcohol as a forbidden fruit, and the poor education concerning alcohol given to students.
For most adolescents, it is a common trait to try to be older than what he or she really is. If a young person is sixteen years old he will try to apparent being 18 years of age, and if he is 18, he will try to be 20, and so on. This is due to simple psychological composition and peer pressure or supremacy. For this reason, if an adult is allowed to drink and a young person is not, the young adolescent will try to do anything possible to get this privilege. Alcohol, which is in reach of an adult but not of an adolescent who is in fact mentally mature to drink, alcohol will be considered a ?forbidden fruit? (Engs 2). Because this is illegal and forbidden the adolescent will go through the trouble of committing a crime such as carrying a false identification system to be able to reach this stage of presumed adulthood. When the purpose is reached the person will be able to drink but without having the proper education for it, resulting in terrible and regrettable consequences such as alcohol poisoning or intoxication. Therefore, the theory of forbidden fruit must be eliminated by declaring alcohol purchase minimum for all ages above the average maturity level, as well, providing good education to eliminate the possibilities of abuse and poisoning.
Education for young adolescents as to the harms of alcohol is one of the most important contributions a government can make to society. Education, along with the perfect drinking age, can provide a country with the lowest attainable consumption of alcohol. As mentioned earlier, alcohol consumption will never be abolished but can only be reduced. Drinking has for thousands of years formed part of society and it will not cease to do so from one day to another. What must be done is simply to make sure that alcohol is treated with respect. One of the main causes of irresponsible drinking in the United States is the poor quality of alcohol education. In high schools across the United States, the students are taught drink responsibly but then again, they are taught not to drink at all because it is illegal. Therefore, because it seems like something out of reach for them, they do not pay attention to the education. When the time to drink comes, they do not enforce what they have been taught and it results in irresponsible drinking. The important thing is not to use this type of education being presently used where alcohol is regarded as a restriction but to change it in to something that is in reach but which is regarded as a privilege and therefore should be handled with respect. When this type of education is imposed, teenagers will still drink but they will not drink in abuse. Teenagers will treat alcohol as what it is, something harmful when used in excess. This is the main problem with a drinking age of 21, because the drink is a forbidden fruit and the availability of a drink is not constant, when there is a chance to get a drink, the opportunity is taken as an advantage by a teenager and drinks are abused. The teenager will try to drink as much a possible because the opportunity may not be seen for a long term. This creates into an abuse of alcohol which imposes serious danger. This difference can be witnessed when alcohol consumption of the United States and countries in Europe where the drinking age is 18 are studied. In Europe, more people drink and more alcohol is consumed, but in the United States there is a higher concentration of alcoholism and alcohol abuse. Obviously, it is better for a country to have less alcoholism even though alcohol consumption may be higher. Therefore, the key factor in this is having a low drinking age such as 18 but at the same time having a good education be provided to young drinkers. What governments need to enforce is a type of education where a teenager has the ability to drink but for them to regard alcohol drinking simply as a an event they can enjoy sociably without a need to abuse it.
The only way to successfully prove what has been mentioned above is to actually research what is happening with society and its relation to alcohol. This can be done very easily with use of surveys. Even though it is very hard to survey every single person in the world, a survey can be given to a smaller group of people and the results of this survey should be able to predict the same pattern for the larger group. In this case, a survey was handed out to a total of one hundred and twenty people. Because of the difference in the people being surveyed however, it was important to maintain a clear balance between the groups. In this case, the survey was divided into two groups, those from a country with a drinking age of 21 and those from a country with a drinking age of 18. These two groups were divided into two more groups, those overage and those underage. Due to the limit of people found from countries with drinking age 18 however, only 18 surveys could be analyzed for each of the four groups. Therefore, a total of 72 surveys were analyzed from which very effective results were obtained.
The results of the survey were very favorable, they allowed for good results t b obtained which can prove the hypothesis being presented in this paper. The table below named ?Table #1? shows the results gathered by the surveys. These results were gathered by different methods but they were all from anonymous sources assuring to write correct and true facts.
Question: Under-Age Over-Age Under-Age Over-Age
Home Country Drinking Age—* 18 18 21 21
Average drinks per week? 6 to 10 11 to 15 16 to 20 11 to 15
Ever driven after drinking? 22.2% 61.1% 38.8% 50.0%
Ever used a fake-ID? 22.2% 33.3% 77.7% 77.7%
Ever missed class due to drinking? 11.1% 38.8% 33.3% 33.3%
Ever gotten behind in school due to drinking? 22.2% 27.7% 27.7% 27.7%
While drinking, done something you later regretted? 50.0% 27.7% 44.4% 38.8%
Ever gotten in a fight due to drinking? 27.7% 33.3% 27.7% 27.8%
Engaged in sexual activity due to drinking? 27.7% 38.8% 27.7% 33.3%
Engaged in Sexual activity without protection under the influence? 5.55% 16.6% 11.1% 11.1%
Damaged property or committed a crime under the influence? 16.6% 11.1% 5.55% 11.1%
Gotten in trouble with the police due to alcohol? 5.55% 11.1% 16.6% 22.2%
Graph #1 ? Drinks Per Week
For these results to be effectively analyzed, they must be first parted into their respective groups. As the table #1 above shows, all of these four groups are described in percentages which come from the total amount of surveys distributed to each of the groups. That is, the percentage is obtained from the total of eighteen surveys per group.
The most straight forward and at the same time effective question asked in these surveys is that of the amount of drinks consumed per week by each of the groups. Most people however, do not have a very precise count for the amount of drinks they consume in a week, this is why it is rather difficult to arrive at a precise number for the average amount of drinks consumed by the people being surveyed. For this reason, these averages are not described with precise numbers but rather with simple ranges in which the average is expected to lie. Another factor worth noting about these ranges is the fact that they do not go into individual detail. Because the values are nothing more than an average of the whole, the amount of people who abuse or drink responsibly cannot be determined. Still however, the results can be used in a very effective method to compare the alcohol consumption in different ages and from the different countries. When these ranges are juxtaposed between each other as in the graph labeled graph #1, it can be seen that the countries with a drinking age of 18 have a more favorable consumption of alcohol. The output is that even though for those overage the amount of alcohol consumed in all countries is in the same range, the amount consumed by those underage is less for those in a country with a drinking age of 18. This may be due to the fact that those underage in a country with 18 are younger than those from a country of drinking age 21 where the range of ages goes all the way up to 20 years of age. The important point to highlight however, is that no matter what ages are contained in the ranges, the amount of alcohol consumed will still be less for a drinking age of 18. Thus it will still be favorable to have a drinking age of 18. It is very important to mention as well that because this survey did not include those who refrain from drinking in totality, the amount of alcohol consumed overall might be larger in a Latin or European country, but the amount of alcohol consumed by those who actually do drink at least one drink per week is less.
One of the most fearsome results of drinking is the inability to drive ensuing in a car crash, generally, concluding in death. Drinking and driving, all over the world, constitutes for one of the largest contributors to death of human beings. This is why it is extremely important to take into consideration the effect of a change in legal drinking age on the amount of people driving under the influence. In the survey at hand, the difference in the amount of people who drink and drive between countries with different drinking ages is very high. The survey shows that in the United States almost half as much people drive drunk when compared to people from countries in Latin America or Europe. This impressive difference however is not mainly due to a low drinking age. This survey was administered to a total pool of 32 people from a country with a drinking age of 21 where all of them where from the United States of America. Therefore, the difference here does not come mainly from the drinking age but rather from law enforcement. In countries outside of the United States, the police officers do not enforce drinking and driving laws nearly as harsh. For that reason people are less scared and in the same way more prone to driving under the influence.
The use of false systems of identification is seen in all parts of the world as an illegal act. These systems however, are still used with the interest of changing a persons identity or age. In the United States, as well as in countries outside its borders, the use of these very well known ?fake-ID?s? is somewhat common throughout the young population. In the survey administered, the difference in the amount of people who use fake identifications in different countries is remarkably large. The difference between the amount of people in the United States who use fake ID?s is extremely large when compared to the amount of people who use these in Latin or European countries. The reason for this is very simple- Because a person underage is in need of using a fake-ID to get into a public location where the minimum is the same as the drinking age, most under age adolescents use these. As well, because the age range and maturity level for people to start going to public institutions such as bars is 18, those between 18 and 20 years of age in the United States need the use of a fake-ID for this purpose. It is in the interest of a country however, to have the least amount of people committing illegal acts such as the use of fake-ID?s, for this reason, it is better to have a low drinking age where the use of fake-ID?s is very low. In counterargument, a country will also like to keep youngsters off the bars and streets; In reality however, the adolescents will still go to the bars and streets no matter what age is the minimum, except with a drinking age of 18 the use of false identifications will be smaller. As well, the cash phenomena will come into effect and help lower the amount of alcohol consumption. Due to the high prices of alcohol in bars and such institutions, even though these adolescents will go to the bars, they will not drink as much. Consequently, having more fun and less alcohol. In conclusion, as far as illegal actions and illegal identifications go, a drinking age of 18 is more favorable for any country.
This survey was administered with the purpose of judging very delicate sides. This is because it does not judge small things but rather, it judges large countries with large amounts of people. Therefore, there are many factors involved which cannot be controlled in the questions and by the survey. These factors include, most of all, the difference in customs between the countries. As well, the difference in age ranges between the groups. Customs of a country include everything from what people do to the type of law enforcement that takes place in the city or nation. As far as the survey results, even though some of the questions yielded very different results between the countries, these are mainly due to the factors named above. One of the questions in the survey questioned sexual activity due to alcohol consumption. The difference in the results for this question may be different simply because of the customs of the countries. Because women from one country may be overall more prone to having sexual interaction than those from other countries simply because of the difference in customs, the results might be affected. This simple factor can alter the results in a very large way. Another question was that which addressed trouble with the police and people committing small crimes such as small damage to properties. This as well, may be very easily due to customs of nations as far as law enforcement goes. Because the police officers are much more lenient in Latin American countries and European countries than in the United States, these results are expected to be different. The most usual results would include the United States having a larger number of people who have had trouble with the police and a smaller number of people committing small crimes; This is simply because the police force has a much stronger enforcement of the law. As well as the difference in the amount of people who have missed class due to drinking. For this question, the amount of people who missed classes due to drinking in Latin and European countries was much lower. This is mainly due to the fact that this group does not include students in college but only in high school and under 18 years of age. Therefore, because of the parents and attendance requirements, they will be forced not to miss class. Overall, these small changes due to customs and age groups of a country are not due to alcohol and therefore are to be ignored. This is not to say that the survey failed in provide good results because it did in fact provide good and somewhat predicted results.
Going to a college or a University is a major step in the lives of thousands of people all over the world. Usually, the very high percentage of these go out of home and even overseas for this opportunity. As well, most of these adolescents enter school at the same age, 18 years of age. If the maturity level of a person is to be evoked, a person?s maturity level can be over all other characteristics determined from the ability of a person to survive alone and with help from no on except for maybe monetary help. For this reason, if a person is able to go to college, without a doubt, this person is mature enough for anything. This type of person deserves the privileges and responsibilities that should come with being mature. Therefore, as well as having the privilege and responsibility to go to college, they should be able to pay taxes, go to war, fly a plane, and most of all, drink alcohol- responsibly and with maturity. One of the only countries to still instate a drinking age of 21 is the United States. The United States is also said to be the largest and most developed. As proved in this report however, it can be said that as far as drinking age goes, the most developed and civilized seems to have the largest problem as well.
Wood, R. ?Substance Abuse: The Nation’s Number One Health Problem, Key Indicators for Policy.? Johnson Foundation Report. Princeton, NJ; October 1993.
Presley C.A., Meilman P.W., Cashin J.R., Lyerla R. ?Alcohol and Drugs on American College Campuses: Use, Consequences, and Perceptions of the Campus Environment? Vol IV: 1992-94. Carbondale, IL; 1996.
Rogers J.D., Greenfield T.K. ?Beer drinking accounts for most of the hazardous alcohol consumption reported in the United States.? Journal of Studies on Alcohol. 1999
Engs, R. ?Why the drinking age should be lowered: An opinion based upon research? Professor, Applied Health Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN; 1999