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May 18, 2016

Lower drinking age may improve binge drinking problems


I saw a group of three people order a fish bowl-sized margarita the other day. It was a real fish bowl, hopefully not previously used to house the fish, but full of margarita. I stared at it amazed, quite jealous and hoping one of the people sharing backwash and a straw had the flu as punishment for me not being able to legally order the drink yet.

While I stared the group down, another table received a similar drink order, but instead of a fish bowl, they ordered a water cooler, one of those large blue containers which are put into offices and classrooms. The top was cut off and a ladle was used to scoop out the drink into each person’s glass. There were 10 people at the table, but several gallons of tequila and ice to be devoured.

I can legally order one of the monstrous drinks in six months. Six months is ridiculous; I want one now. And I can’t make it on my own, as I don’t have an industrial-strength blender.

I believe 18 should be the federal drinking age, to reduce binge and underage drinking. The law does not stop college or high school kids from drinking but forces them to get alcohol illegally and riskily.

Twenty-one has been the national drinking age since 1984, under the Federal Aid Highway Act spearheaded by the organization MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, as many people were dying in car crashes especially on the highway after consuming large amounts of alcohol. The rise in the drinking age has lowered the rate of these deaths, but raised a whole new slew of problems that affect college campuses and high schools across the world.

The University of Massachusetts deals with alcohol-related incidents every weekend and during the week, in dorms and off campus trying to keep students safe. While I believe not many students drive around in a drunken state, achieving the law’s goal in lowering driving accidents, I believe it has increased binge drinking and led to dangerous practices where students do not always seek help when they need it, as they are afraid of getting in trouble with the University and the town.

Binge drinking involves drinking several drinks in a short amount of time with the intent of getting drunk, and it’s alluring to many students, who drink a lot in their dorms before leaving for a party so they do not have to pass cops on the way out of the dorms or on the way to the party.

The University has in place several programs to stem dangerous behavior due to alcohol consumption, including free rides home and a program where students can call for police or ambulance assistance with little to no fear of legal repercussions.

Many university presidents have joined the movement called Amethyst Initiative. The initiative was founded with the aim to lower the drinking age to 18, thereby curbing the binge drinking epidemic and saving student’s lives.

If the drinking age was set at 18, student drinking would be protected by the legal system.  The current system is not working, according to the Amethyst Initiative. Several college students drink themselves to death every year, thousands suffer permanent health effects from binging and even more make “ethical compromises that erode respect for the law,” members of the initiative said in a statement.

Underage drinking will not stop, but the laws need to change. They need to be formulated in the best way to protect students. A drinking age of 18 would decrease binge drinking and allow the police to protect students more, as students would not be hiding their drinking habits as much.

Claire Anderson is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at

6 Responses to “Lower drinking age may improve binge drinking problems”
  1. BarBouncer says:

    Seems like a flawed argument. A prior generation of people in the 1960s and 70s created such an epidemic that it led to the creation of MADD and the laws cited in the article. In other words, we’ve already “been there, done that” before this group of college students has come along. Drinking and driving may not seem as big a problem on a large semi-rural campus where most people don’t drive, but in the context of the larger U.S., lowering the age to 18 would again be inviting many alcohol-related deaths on the roads, but also amongst an even younger crowd. Unfortunately, the U.S. has always been a hard-drinking culture and binge-drinking is a rite of passage for at least the last two generations. In Europe, drinking is more of a cultural aspect of life where it is normal for teenagers to have a glass of wine with dinner. But don’t kid yourself. I’ve lived in several parts of the world and people party and drink out of control everywhere. They just don’t drive as much or have as great a distance to go, so it’s less likely you’ll kill someone. In addition, their definition of alcoholism and binge drinking is far more liberal than our own. Unfortunately, human nature is very susceptible to people’s baser needs, and you will find out that people who seem stupid, are, in fact, stupid. One-upsmanship, showing off, experimenting with freedom, etc. are all rites of passage to a degree. Unfortunately, some will pay the price for their mistakes. That rite of passage is somewhat delayed in the U.S. partially due to drinking laws but also other societal factors. Therefore, whether you are 18 or 21 really doesn’t matter, you’re likely to make the same mistakes. The societal policy hopes to stem at least some of the stupid decisions and fatal consequences by moving the drinking age to 21, which has turned out to be warranted by the statistics, even though it is admittedly very inconvenient for college students who otherwise have autonomy and believe they are grown-ups.

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  3. Tequila says:

    Lower age does not improve. Rather an increase in alcohol taxation and price will likely to deter less youngsters drinking.

  4. I have been runing through Internet resources on alcohol problems and found your article. To tell you the truth firstly I thought that the idea of lowering age can not do anything good. After a while I reconsidered my opinion. I agree that if the drinking age was set at 18, student drinking would be protected by the legal system. They wouldn’t hide and binge so often. It would change a lot in the society. The forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest.

  5. Lavonne says:

    Some genuinely rattling function on behalf of the owner of this site , utterly excellent content material .

  6. I agree that twenty-one, as a drinking age, is ridiculous. It doesn’t solve any problems. But the think is, we don’t show young people how and when should they drink alcohol. Mostly, parents don’t accept they children’s drinking, even tough they are 18 and, for example, it’s some kind of family party. I think that as long as we won’t teach our society about drinking, all pluses and minuses of it, changing age won’t solve any problems too.

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