Raising the drinking age in the United States has been a total public policy failure.
It has been doing for 18-21 year olds what national prohibition did for the whole country in the 1920’s—promoting rather than restraining binge drinking.
In 1984, President Reagan signed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which gave states an ultimatum: raise the drinking age to 21, or lose 10% of federal highway construction funds. This was ironic since Reagan claimed to want less federal government and a larger role for the states. One by one states raised the drinking age, making the US one of only a dozen countries where those under 21 cannot purchase even beer or wine. For most other countries, the legal drinking age is 18.
The federal bill was pushed through by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). They pointed to the thousands of fatalities caused by underage drinking and driving. The goal was noble— to save lives, including young lives. But, it hasn’t worked that way.
Consider the following statistics:
- In 2010, there were approximately 189,000 emergency rooms visits by persons under age 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol.
- Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year, and cost the U.S. $24 billion in economic costs in 2010.
- People aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States. More than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinking (more than five drinks over a few hours for males, four for females).
- On average, underage drinkers consume more drinks per drinking occasion than adult drinkers.
- The number of reported cases of alcohol poisoning rose from 779 to 2,290 between 1998 and 2005 for 18-24-year-olds in the US.
The reasons for rampant and spiraling binge drinking among young people are fairly obvious. It is the allure of the forbidden fruit. In addition, because of the age limit, teens are exposed to alcohol in settings without responsible oversight, and dealing illegally both sellers and buyers focus on the most potent products. This phenomenon, in which illegal substances become sold in deadlier and deadlier forms because of reduced risk of detection, is true of a wide range of drugs. For example, heroin is sold rather than the opium from which it was derived because it is much easier to transport and conceal it.
Lowering the drinking age again could help. Some researchers even suggest lowering the drinking age further than 18– to as young as age 7 or 8 so long as it takes place in the home supervised by parents. This emulates a successful European cultural model where young kids are served small amounts of alcohol at family meals. By doing so, parents educate their kids about alcohol and rob it of the taboo that leads kids to sneak off and binge away from adult supervision.
We should learn from history. It is well documented that Prohibition, which lasted from 1920 to 1933, failed to decrease overall alcohol consumption, and ultimately led to vastly more drinking. Students of the period estimate that a few years into Prohibition alcohol consumption was back up to 60-70% of pre-Prohibition levels, as illegal sources became established, and then kept rising.
The five martini business lunches popular during the 1960s can be traced directly back to Prohibition. Before prohibition, nobody would have thought that normal or acceptable. And, far from reducing crime and corruption, Prohibition also led to a golden age of organized crime with the likes of Al Capone and other bootleggers.
The fact of the matter is that a legal drinking age of 21 is not preventing alcohol consumption and abuse for those under 21, and could, in fact, be making it worse.
And it is making it worse at a time when irresponsible cell phone use, marijuana use, and especially prescription drug use, including opioids, are creating problems as bad or worse than alcohol. When golfer Tiger Woods was cited for driving while intoxicated, he had not been drinking. Reports indicate that he had been using prescribed drugs.
For those who are addicted to alcohol and other substances, there are natural ways to treat it. One of the most promising, based on recent research, is vitamin C, especially intravenous vitamin C. If intravenous C is unavailable, liposomal C will provide some although not all of the benefits. Regular exercise can also help counteract the negative effects of chronic drinking.
Other articles in this week’s Pulse of Natural Health:
Congressional Freedom Caucus Takes Wrong Turn
14 thoughts on “Time to Face Facts About Drinking Laws”
Your comment is hogwash.
My feeling is that it may work for some, but not others. Unfortunately, the only way to find out if it works is to iimplement the law and see if it works. I can see good and bad, and I am sure it is an issue of morality for some people. You can’t actually know until you try it, just like legalizing cannabis, it may have a positive effect, of course, it could also turn us into a culture of drunks and potheads, who knows?
I want to point out that prescription drug abuse is hogwash!! You are confusing illicit opioids for being prescription. There is a BIG difference!! Chronic pain patients rarely ever abuse or sell their drugs. The stats show that less than 5% ever do that!! Alcohol takes more lives percentage wise than opioids.
LOL!! That’s a good one, Howard… Keep being the Big Pharma Troll that you are.
Thad, I am sorry that you are ignorant of the facts. Apparently you are not a chronic pain patient, because if you were you would know better than to say that. We chronic pain patients have a lot of issues with Big Pharma and despise them more than apparently you know. The facts about opioids is that the vast majority of the overdoses and deaths are due to illicit opioids, not the prescription ones. You need to open your eyes and get information before talking about something that you know nothing about.
Howard, it’s funny how all you trolls act like you are the only ones who are learned about whatever subject is at hand, and try to belittle anyone who proves you wrong. I do a ton of reading and research. I know that marijuana and CBD Oil are excellent, natural pain remedies that don’t have side effects and are non-addictive. And if you were truly informed, like you claim to be, then you would know that and extoll their virtues instead of pushing poison for Big Pharma… And while we’re at it, let’s compare apples to apples: when it comes to overdosing, approximately 2,200 people die per year from alcohol, while 16,000 die from PRESCRIPTION Opioids… Nice try, Troll.
Now where did you come up with this thing that I don’t agree that CBD oil and marijuana aren’t good remedies for pain?? I never said anything like that!! I am pushing for the states and the federal government to legalize these. Are you? Have you written your legislators to do this?? Have you called them?? Have you rallied others to do the same?? I know that I have!! I support any pain remedy that works right for an individual whether it is essential oils, Arnica creams, opioids, CBD oil (either from hemp or marijuana), kratom, medical marijuana, etc.!! I have trigeminal neuralgia, hemicrania continua, geniculate neuralgia, polyneuropathy, so I know all about pain. In case you didn’t know, TN is the worst pain known to medical science. I have used aromatherapy, essential oils, kratom, fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, various anti epileptics, physical therapy, spiritual therapy, arnica creams, neurostimulation, hot and cold packs, chiropractic, etc. Are you a pain patient?? I am a member of the U.S. Pain Foundation, iPain Foundation, Facial Pain Association, and several chronic pain groups on Facebook and Ben’s Friends groups. I am in contact daily with thousands of chronic pain patients, a hundred or so doctors, Pain News Network, National Pain Report, Medscape, WebMD chronic pain articles via email, CDC. I do research for many groups!! I assist the FPA with raising some money, helped coordinate petitions to Congress, FDA, CDC, DEA. So please don’t tell me that I am a troll and uninformed!!
Howard, if you truly do support natural cures/remedies, then I truly apologize. Your first comment seemed to favor Big Pharma, but I guess I was wrong about you… I do, however, still disagree that prescription drugs aren’t a big problem. Either way, may God bless you and I hope you find relief from your ailments.
I agree with lowering the drinking age. My parents allowed a small glass of wine or beer (maybe 3 ounces) with dinner on the nights they were drinking. I was told under penalty of Death never to touch it without them being present, offer it to my friends, or even show those friends were it was stored. By the time I hit high school, my peers were trying their best to get and stay drunk or high. It didn’t matter to me and I wasn’t even tempted to join them. It wasn’t worth the risk of getting caught when all I had to do was ask my folks. Do not misunderstand, I do drink but I do so responsibly as I was taught to do. Parental guidance can make all the difference to a teen entering his/her “rebellion” stage.
My 18-year old daughter just got back from traveling alone to the UK visiting her grandparents. She had beers at a pub with her grandad and went to nightclubs with her cousins. After living like a responsible adult for a month there, she is back home in the states and back in limbo between kid and adult. It doesn’t make much sense to either of us. If she wants to have a glass of wine with me now and then, I don’t have a problem with it.
The stats show that less than 5% ever do that!! Alcohol takes more lives percentage wise than opioids.
A lot of the problem is in the education system.In this country, nobody is willing to teach / reward young people for staying healthy. No nutritional info that means anything. No spiritual direction that’s not contaminated with pedophilia. No positive roll models that aren’t tied to Illuminati / satanism. The peer pressure is overwhelming, because there is no truthful information by a trustworthy source. The news media promotes distention on a global scale, so that all every one sees is a world out of control. The young people look at this and all they see is peer pressure, the adults look at this and all they see is peer pressure, so every one plays follow the leader. Believe it or not there still are people out there that have morals and good family values, why not report / talk about this. Just because the main stream wants distention, doesn’t mean every one has to give up and believe that its the only way. The alcohol and drugs have been ongoing since the beginning of time, look in the bible, look at past history. Its time to wake up!
My parents allowed my brother and I to have a beer or wine at home with them present from the time we were 16. I personally wasn’t interested at that time though my brother was (he had already been drinking secretly with friends for a couple years at that point). While I think it was a good policy my parents implemented, it didn’t really stop me from binge drinking in college, though not the extent of many of my peers. The interesting thing for me was that I decided to quite drinking after my 21st birthday, as the appeal had worn off. Since then I have an occasional drink (maybe twice a month), but have not been drunk in any fashion since then.
Frankly, if we are to have true liberty in this country, no drugs or alcohol should be illegal. They should be taxed and regulated, of course, but taking away the allure would go a long way. Portugal legalized ALL drugs many years ago, and their usage had plummeted in a relatively short time. The same is true in Holland (though they didn’t legalize ALL drugs), with the usage of Cannabis in particular almost non-existent with the nations youth at this point. Why create forbidden fruit? Something very few teenagers will resist. In Europe, young kids have small amounts of wine or beer with meals, removing the “forbidden” fruit appeal that leads to increased peer pressure and pushing them into undesirable behavior. On top of that, no adult should be restricted from using whatever substances they choose to. How is it freedom to deny the use of natural substances that have been used for thousands of years?
Obviously, prohibition is a complete and utter failure as most law enforcement professionals will admit (usually after they leave the profession………there is a LOT of money to be made by government agencies, private prisons, the CIA, etc., by keeping certain substances illegal. The focus should always be on treating those who become dependent, not on punishing them, since most addicts have suffered some sort of trauma in their childhood that makes them more susceptible to addiction.