The word alcohol brings to mind a barrage of images for the college student. If thought of as a verb, alcohol is used as a social lubricant, and as a noun, it is what college students consume in either a courageous, rebellious, dangerous or foolish manner. It might be illegal for the first half of college, but it is the number-one abused liquid among college students.
Why does the federal government send 18-year-olds into another country to risk and sacrifice their lives in a war over 6,000 miles away, but forces them to wait until they are 21 years of age to legally consume alcohol? This is a common argument regarding the current minimum drinking age in the United States.
First, here is a quick history lesson. During the 1970s, around the time of the Vietnam War, 29 states lowered their drinking ages in order to mimic the new age for enlistment, as well as the legal voting age. During these years, the increase in alcohol-related accidents and fatalities increased. This worried states so much that in 1983, 16 states raised the drinking age back to 21. On July 1984, President Ronald Reagan passed a law called the “Uniform Drinking Age Act” that had all states revert their laws back to 21 as the legal drinking age.
The fact of the matter is that even though the legal drinking age is 21, there are many people under the age of 21 that consume alcohol on a regular basis. If our nation were to decrease the minimum legal drinking age back to 18, it is likely there would be a decrease in alcohol consumption among this generation of young adults. For example, in Europe, where alcohol consumption among the younger generations is not considered to be so taboo, there are drastically lower rates of alcoholism, alcohol-related car accidents and alcohol abuse. True, immediately after the drinking age has been lowered, there might be a slight increase in rates of alcohol abuse. However, in the long run, it is even more probable that the abuse and over-consumption of alcohol will drastically decrease.
When comparing drinking at the age of 19 to 20 to drinking at 23 to 24, there is a complete shift in the social scene. Drinking at 19 consists of drinking as much beer at one time as you can, otherwise known as binging. After the age of 21, drinking is more elegant in style, such as drinking a cosmopolitan or a blended margarita. This may be a generalization, and therefore not representative of everyone within this age group, but for the most part, it tends to show how the life cycle works.
“I drink to relax, have fun and socialize,” said Laurie Alvandian, a 20-year-old literary journalism major.
What it all comes down to is the fact that at the age of 18 you are considered to be a legal adult, with proper voting rights, army enlistment opportunities and the ability to buy cigarettes and porn. How much of a difference do three years really make? Perhaps it is within those three years that young adults consume the most amount of alcohol. However, will lowering the drinking age force young adults to be more responsible about drinking?
In this day and age, our society has come to accept drinking as a part of the college experience. With movies like “Animal House,” “Van Wilder” and “Old School,” it’s no surprise that students see drinking as a way to express their social independence.
“College is the first time people escape their parents, so no rules—why not have a good time?” said Tommy Scott, a 20-year-old sociology major.
However, academics often take precedence over the party scene, and this reflects a level of maturity of many underage college students.
“If I wasn’t a bio major, I’d drink more,” said Christopher Dagher, a 20-year-old biological sciences major.
However, when students are away from home and their parents, there is a sense of freedom gained, for better or worse, while intoxicated. Those who consume alcohol on a fairly regular basis know that alcohol lowers inhibitions, thus allowing you to do things you might not take part in while sober.
“If you believe it’s ‘courage juice,’ it’s only because you know you are becoming numb and careless,” said Stacy DeVera, a 20-year-old literary journalism student.
“Like oil in an engine, alcohol serves to lubricate social situations, making people more apt to interact. Frequently referred to as the elixir of truth, it allows people to be honest without fear of retaliation,” said medical microbiology graduate student Stuart Souki.
According to many students who were surveyed, the cravings for alcohol consumption after the age of 21 tend to decrease.
“Drinking becomes more sophisticated after you turn 21. It is more of an event,” said Michael Donofrio, an economics and literary journalism double-major.
“I rarely drink these days, and when I do drink, I am more of a connoisseur,” Souki said.
When all is said and done, even with the legal minimum drinking age of 21, alcohol has come to be customary within the college scene. As long as movies keep showing college students partying, drinking and going crazy with alcohol, the drinking scene will persist as the social norm at colleges across the country.