When Should People Start Drinking?

Given Brown, Staff Writer

In the United States, it is illegal to drink under 21. While there are many opinions on this topic, officials have agreed that it seems to be the right call. Despite how the media portrays teen drinking, it tends to cause more harm than good. Alcohol can significantly impact a person’s mental state. The prefrontal cortex, the rational part of the brain, does not fully develop until someone is 25. This can explain why many teens forget that their actions have consequences. Although some are more serious than others, it is still important to consider these outcomes. Navigating life becomes more manageable as an adult because most people start to figure out what works for them. It is much harder to find that balance at a young age, especially in high school. Aside from keeping up with their classwork, students have full plates. Many individuals forget that self-care is the most important task on their to-do list. When someone is not in a good headspace, a quick fix might seem like the solution to all of their problems. Since alcohol is a depressant, it is dangerous for minors to consume it in times of despair.

Clip from Adrian Chiles documentary Drinkers Like Me (Getty)

However, some underage people still choose to drink. Though it is not advised, some do it for the experience. As children mature, it is normal for them to question the ideas they were once taught. For example, why are 18-year-olds considered adults if they are not treated like them? It can be argued that since there is only a three-year difference between the ages of 18 and 21, most individuals will not change drastically. Young adults are given the space to make important decisions regarding voting, having sex, dropping out of school, and the list goes on. If the legal drinking age was lowered, people would not have to do it in secret – it would allow them to drink in a safer environment. It could also teach them about accountability. This is because teens would have to learn how to be still responsible under the influence. How will teens grow if they are not given the freedom to make these choices openly? How will they learn? While the concerns around this issue are valid, it would not be fair to dismiss those who feel the law should be amended.

According to Aina Bandele (10), “Most people take their first drink when they’re 16. Usually, it’s at a party or with a group of friends. I don’t think the drinking age should be lowered. I feel like people disrespect it as is. I don’t think that kids need to drink because nothing good comes out of that.” Chrislyn Elliot (11) said, “In my opinion, teenagers tend to be irresponsible. Not that adults can’t be, but 21 is the perfect age limit. It’s not too young or too old. By the age of 21, I feel like most people have matured enough to be able to drink as they please.” Yesenia Huerta (12) stated, “I think the age should be lowered. The reason minors drink is that it’s prohibited. If it’s legal for them to drink at a younger age, it ruins the excitement of doing something illegal. Also, if we’re legally seen as adults at 18 and are expected to handle new responsibilities, why not let us drink?” Ana Gomes (12) added, “I think the limit should be lowered to 18 or there should be less strict laws around it.”

Ultimately, people will continue to drink. Whether that happens before or after turning 21 depends on the individual. What should matter the most is that they avoid causing harm to themselves or those around them.