Is The Legal Drinking Age Too High?
By Mindy Gallagher
Okay, enough. Let’s wake up, get our heads out of the sand, put on our big people pants, and have an honest discussion about alcohol.
I will probably get push back for what I am about to say, so before I do, let me explain two things. 1) I am not talking about high school students, and 2) I lost a brother to addiction. So, in other words, I am not a fan of alcohol, drugs, or any addictive substance.
But I do believe it is time to lower the legal drinking age to 19. If you spend any time on a college campus, you know the current legal drinking age of 21 is a joke and, in my opinion, may be doing more harm than good.
Walk through any parking lot before a college football game — as my husband and I recently did — and you’ll see parents, students, BBQs, corn hole, and ALCOHOL. No one is asking any student for ID, even though the majority of students are under age 21.
And then there’s my college-aged kid who can’t legally drink when he comes home for break yet he asks if someone can drive him to a friend’s house in case they have a few beers. We know he drinks alcohol at school, so doesn’t it seem silly, even hypocritical, to have a separate rule at home?
Here’s the thing: college students are drinking. And they are drinking a lot. Often to excess and sometimes deadly amounts.
When I went to college, the legal drinking age was 18. The upside of this was two-fold:
When we had a dorm party, there was always an RA on duty who was responsible for supervising us. If someone had too much to drink, the RA could step in to help. And we had no fear asking for help because no one would get in trouble for possession of alcohol. It was legal.
We could go to a bar where a bartender had the ability to cut you off.
In both cases there were sober adults around.
I wish the drinking age was effective. I would prefer my kids never touch alcohol or any other addictive, mind-altering substance. But as most parents of college-age students will tell you, that’s just not the reality on the vast majority of campuses. And, yes, I know alcohol damages the adolescent brain; I know experts say the longer kids wait to drink alcohol the less chance of addiction; and I know many fear that lowering the drinking age will result in more high schoolers drinking.
I still think we need to at least have a conversation about it.
Maybe if college students were able to drink legally it would take the “forbidden fruit” concept away. Maybe there would be no need to binge or “pre-game” (when teenagers drink in private before going out in public). Maybe our teenagers could learn to drink in moderation — and responsibly — instead of all of us just looking the other way and hoping that tragedy does not strike.
And maybe if we treated them like responsible young adults, they would act like responsible adults. Maybe it would save a few lives. Maybe. In my opinion anyway.
Mindy Gallagher is social media manager for Your Teen Magazine.