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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Father-Daughter Commentary: Stay away from the sauce, or embrace it

    18, you booze, you lose

    Teenagers make bad decisions. Drunken teenagers make worse ones.
    On weekends, the howls and grumblings of those under the legal drinking age can be heard on campuses nationwide. “It’s unfair, we’re adults, we’re responsible, we’re smart!”

    Then the next morning, those same people talk about blacking out like it’s a badge of honor.

    Adolescents are more vulnerable than adults to the effects of alcohol on learning and memory, according to a report by Duke University scientists. So 18-year-olds are more susceptible to memory loss, the long-term effects of alcohol and alcohol dependency.

    Blacking out isn’t just a testament to how many shots you can pound in a night; it’s actually more likely to have happened just because of your age.

    Contrary to popular belief, turning 18 doesn’t make you an adult, not physically. Young men and women will keep growing, maturing and reshaping through their college years.

    Dr. Jay Giedd of the National Institute of Mental Health reported that brain maturation “continues into the teen years and even into the 20s.” That means at 18, the human brain is still hardwiring itself for adulthood. An 18-year-old’s actions are more likely to set a pattern later in life and easy access to alcohol doesn’t help them set a healthy pattern.

    The higher drinking age provides an extra barrier to buying alcohol.

    Society accepts that at 18, people can think for themselves. The reality is, they’re still developing the parts of their brain for decision-making and risk assessment. The decision to buy alcohol should be made by someone who has physically and mentally matured.

    We recognize that at 21, people are ready to make the decision to buy alcohol; why can’t we realize that if they have “teen” in their age, they’re still too young?

    Who hasn’t looked back at senior year of high school or freshman year, and said, “Wow, I was dumb”?

    No one adds, “Alcohol sure made that a better decision.”

    How old is 18? It’s old enough to get married and pregnant. Really? How often does that work out for the better at that age? It’s old enough to get a tattoo. Yeah, I’m sure there aren’t any regrets there.

    Would the lives of 18-year-olds be drastically improved with access to unlimited alcohol? No.

    People often compare America to Europe, where the drinking age is 18 in most countries. But Europe’s entire drinking culture is different than America’s. Drinking is a family affair, there’s a distinction between drinking in private with minors versus in public, and it’s often the quality of the alcohol that’s important, not the quantity.

    To change the drinking age, one would have to change how Americans view alcohol. If it’s lowered to 18, won’t that just put alcohol closer to the 15- and 16-year-olds who are desperate to get their hands on it?

    The drinking age is in place to protect those who are developing mentally from screwing themselves over. It shouldn’t be viewed as a sign that one is socially mature. It’s just a sign that one is physically able to drink without brain damage. You can’t fake that.

    We know that women metabolize alcohol differently than men. Well, 18-year-olds are affected by alcohol differently than 21-year-olds. It’s science. Instead of “Just wait until you’re legally allowed to drink,” maybe someone should campaign, “Just wait until alcohol doesn’t do irreversible damage to your brain.”

    — Michele A. Monroe is a journalism senior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

    18 is an adult. Period.

    Of course the drinking age should be lowered to 18 years, but hey, I’m biased. I drink and I’m Irish.

    The idea that an 18-year-old can be expected to fully participate and be responsible as an adult in our society except for having a drink is ludicrous. Society fully expects you to be able to enlist in the armed services and defend your country, to the death if necessary, yet you are not responsible enough to order a beer. They will gladly give you a gun, but not a “shot.” You can be summoned to serve on a jury, a jury of “peers,” and you might have to render a verdict in an alcohol-related offense, even though you may never have had the legal opportunity to have a drink yourself.

    As a college student, we, as a society, will send you off to live on your own, surrounded by students who can and do drink, and tell you that you can’t participate. The administrators of colleges have recently lobbied for a lower drinking age because they have seen firsthand how unenforceable a non-drinking campus is.

    The current law has made “minor in possession” nearly a rite of passage during college life. How many students do you personally know who have been swept up by the campus police at some point in their first year? Student orientation weekend is like shooting fish in a barrel. This arbitrary age of 21 as the right age to drink screams of a double standard.

    We, as culture, tell you it is okay to buy cigarettes, a known heath hazard, but turn right around and say that drinking, known to have some positive health benefits in moderation, is not okay for another three years.

    Making alcohol a “forbidden fruit” just makes it all the more difficult to teach moderation. Rather than learning to drink in a responsible manner, such as in bars or restaurants, students are forced to drink in unsupervised locales such as fraternity houses or house parties.

    When teens are involved in alcohol-related injuries or accidents, they are far less likely to get medical help for fear of the additional legal consequences. Keeping the drinking age at 21 gives the impression that alcohol consumption represents maturity, which in turn leads teens to want to consume alcohol just to appear mature. Drinking responsibly is a learned action. Sitting down for dinner and having a glass of wine with your family or friends is a much better way to be introduced to drinking than binge drinking at an unsupervised venue. Binge drinking has become the norm with teens these days and this is a direct result of a complete lack of understanding about moderation and the dangers of alcohol. Unfortunately, they do not offer a class in drinking techniques and dangers, but I am sure if it was a required course for freshman students, it would be one of the breadth requirements that students would look forward to taking.

    Cheers!

    — Sean Monroe is the father of Michelle A. Monroe. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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