Opinion: The legal drinking age needs to be decreased in the US

By Farah Bassyouni Feb 10, 2023

I turned 21 years old recently, in other words I can now legally purchase and consume alcohol in the United States of America. This time last winter, I turned 20 years old in Seville, Spain, where I could also legally purchase and consume alcohol. In Europe, depending on the country, the drinking age ranges from 16 years old to 18 years old. A long time ago, individual states in America set their own drinking age, many at 18 years old. However, in 1984, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was set, raising the age to 21 years old. While some states adjust the age to their own rules, most abide by the 21 minimum age requirement. The United States needs to turn back the clock and decrease the drinking age back to 18 years old.

While drinking culture in America is still heavily influenced by binge drinking, other places in the world, such as Europe, have a better handle on drinking. During my time studying abroad in Spain, day drinking, such as having a glass of wine or a beer with lunch was very common. Having one glass of wine does not mean one bottle of wine, binge drinking is nowhere near as common there. European alcohol culture is based around socialization, sharing a drink with friends or several drinks over several hours. This social factor plays a role into why the drinking age in the United States should be changed as well.

In The United States during the 1980s’, there was a drunk driving crisis; teenagers especially, were dying at increasing rates. In an effort to decrease the death toll, as well as the incidence of drunk driving, the national drinking age was raised to 21. 

It has been nearly 30 years since the act was put into place. According to Responsibility.org, in those 30 years, drunk driving fatalities for those under 21 has decreased 61 percent. Drinking culture as a whole has changed. There has been a cultural shift where it is frowned upon to drive when drunk, instead people plan to have a designated driver, take a driving service like Uber or walk. Although some people do still choose to drink and drive, the consequences and risks are highly publicized and not the “norm.” 

This cultural shift is slowly but surely influencing college drinking culture, and college students are more capable of making wiser decisions on their drinking. While celebrating my birthday this past weekend, some friends and I went out to local restaurant Fiesta Ranchera. The food was good and the drinks were delicious, they offer a variety of both regular and alcohol-free margaritas. My group included people both under and over 21 years old, a situation which automatically places extra responsibilities on the non-alcohol drinkers. They become designated drivers, and are often considered the “parents” of the group making sure no one drinks too much or does anything stupid. College drinking culture implies that if you are not drinking at a function, then you are responsible for everyone else who is. 

With the growing decline in drunk driving, deaths, and positive advancements in social drinking culture, the time for change in America is now. Even though it would be a big jump for The United States to take, in the long run, it would deromanticize drinking culture for young Americans. The United States needs to take a page from the books of Europe and lower the national drinking age to 18.

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