Call and Response

In the interest of full disclosure, we present below both the link to MADD’s press release and the text of Choose Responsibility’s response.

http://www.madd.org/news/12045

Science speaks for itself” (MADD press release). Indeed it does. While it is true that “almost 50 peer-reviewed studies” have “found that an increased drinking age significantly lowers alcohol-related fatalities” (MADD press release), an equal number of studies have found no relationship between the drinking age and alcohol-related fatalities (Wagenaar and Toomey, 2002).

Thus, if science is allowed to speak for itself, we must not listen selectively.

While it is true that alcohol-related traffic fatalities have declined since the age was raised to 21, the downward trend began before the law was changed, and it has remained essentially flat for the last decade (NHTSA). Meanwhile, more than 1,000 18-24 year-old lives are being lost to alcohol each year off the roadways, and this number is increasing at an alarming rate (Hingson, 1998, 2001). These lives are being put at risk in the dark corners and behind the closed doors to which Legal Age 21 have banished them.

Thus, we need to look at all the ways alcohol, and the drinking age, put lives at risk, not just at traffic fatalities. The 21 year-old drinking age has forced drinking underground. Clandestine, goal-oriented, unsupervised drinking, a consequence of Legal Age 21, is putting an increasing number of young adult lives at risk.

While it is true that “the neurotoxic effect of excessive alcohol use” (MADD press release) can affect the development of the adolescent brain, no one is advocating excessive alcohol use. Researchers involved in studies of the adolescent brain have stated that, unless the drinking age is raised to 25, when the adolescent brain is fully developed, there is nothing magical about some other age. Indeed, at least one such researcher, Professor Scott Swartzwelder of Duke University, has stated that his studies do “not mean that an 18 year-old who has a beer or two every couple of weeks is doing irreparable damage to her brain. It is the 18 year-old (or 30 year-old for that matter!) who downs five or six drinks on his way to a dance that worries me.”

Thus, we mustn’t be misled by scare tactics. We must listen carefully to what scientists are saying. Most of the rest of the world, where the age is lower than 21, exhibits no evidence of brain impairment. Moderate, responsible use of alcohol poses little neurological risk. Excessive use of alcohol, at any age, may be health- or life-threatening. Clandestine drinking, fostered by Legal Age 21, raises that threat.

13 Responses to “Call and Response”

  1. Tina Clark Says:

    I was on one of the campaigns to raise the drinking age back in the 1980s. My biggest concern at that time was the availability of alcohol to young teens. While current statistics show that a number of 17-20 year olds continue to be provided with alcohol, this is not so true for 13-16 year olds. So in that sense, we are protecting a younger group who would otherwise be provided alcohol. My thinking behind this is that coping skills develop throughout adolescence. Therefore, if we can delay the use of alcohol, there is a hope that the individual will gain lifelong coping skills.

    I am also concerned about the neurobiology results which show that an adolescent brain reacts differently to alcohol compared to an adult brain.

    Thanks for thinking of these points…

    Tina Clark,
    Credentialed Prevention Professional

  2. Clark Walker Says:

    I feel that if we do not change the drinking age to 18 then we should change the age of marital consent and the age for selective service to 21. If a person is old enough to make the decision to marry and old enough to die for their country, shouldn’t they also be able to decide if they want to drink a beer (legally)? I feel that we as a country must make the age of adult decision making the same all the way around. Either you are an adult at 18 or at 21. It can’t be both. That is called a double standard.

    Clark Walker

  3. Maurice Rondeau Says:

    Clark Walker is right on track. MADD is a note band. Scores of jobs (police officer, bartender, insurance agent, soldier, husband, wife, father, mother, etc, etc,) only require one to be 18, not 21. And many in those and other professions are old enough to work and die so that MADD can sell its inconsistent and unsupported positions. It really is not about drinking, but about consistency in the law. Either a person is an adult for all purposes or they are a minor. Ya’ll can’t have it both ways, y’hear?

  4. bill jackvony Says:

    any government that will give u a gun before they’d give u a drink, clearly has its head up its ass. i was in the service when the drinking age was 18

  5. John Sullivan Says:

    As the parent of a 19 and 17 year old sons my difficulty with the 21 yr. old law are as follows.
    1. Any drinking done by them is behind my wifes and my back.
    2. There is no possibility of any type of supervision available to me because I would be breaking the law and subjected to public ridicule via the media.
    3. Should either or both be arrested by the police, especially the 19 yr. old, a permanite scar will be put upon their record which may effect them later in life.
    4. Drinking underage and getting away with it can only show the kids that the laws are not being enforced or that it is easy to break the law. This can’t lead to any good that I know of.
    I do not advocate drinking at any age for the purpose of getting drunk, but reality is reality.
    Kids will be kids and all I can do is tell them about my knowledge of the subject and for them to do the right thing.
    I believe that a 18 yr. old is nearly as capable of doing the right thing as a 21 yr. old. The only difference is that one is a criminal and the other isn’t!

  6. jane Says:

    i think that age should b put up 2 25

  7. nusrat nahar Says:

    the age to drive a vehicle should not be raised because maturity and responsibility have a little to do with a person’s age…

  8. phil wagner Says:

    First of when did MADD(mothers agaisnt Drunk Driving) turn in to over all prohibitionist and also bill is right in saying that i can pick up a gun and fight and die for my country but can’t drink a beer is BS and making the drinking age 21 only incourages binge drinking

  9. haley Says:

    hey you need to put more arguments about keeping the drinking age the same on here… PLEASE

  10. haley Says:

    we should keep the drinking age at 21. teens are known for abusing the substace.

  11. Erin, Ryan, Josh Says:

    I think that they should lower the drinking age to 18. One of the issues that people have who are opposed to lowering the drinking age is driving fatalities. Since the age was raised back to 21 drinking and driving fatalities has decreased. On the contrary cars in the 1980s were not as safe as cars are now. Cars now have many safety features such as front and side air bags, on-star technology so police are notified right away. Emergency vehicles also respond faster. All these factors contributed to why there are less fatalities. Therefore, people who keep using drinking and driving fatalities as a valid reason not to lower the drinking age should reconsider their argument due to the advancements of technology in cars.

  12. Ryan, Erin, Josh Says:

    I think that they should lower the drinking age to 18. One of the issues that people have who are opposed to lowering the drinking age is driving fatalities. Since the age was raised back to 21 drinking and driving fatalities has decreased. On the contrary cars in the 1980s were not as safe as cars are now. Cars now have many safety features such as front and side air bags, on-star technology so police are notified right away. Emergency vehicles also respond faster. All these factors contributed to why there are less fatalities. Therefore, people who keep using drinking and driving fatalities as a valid reason not to lower the drinking age should reconsider their argument due to the advancements of technology in cars.

  13. Ajax the Great Says:

    Tina, if the 21 drinking age protects 13-16 year olds like you say, then why according to the Monitoring the Future and PRIDE surveys does that same age group (i.e. grades 8-10, and even sixth-graders!) find alcohol easier to get than cigarettes? The age limit for cigarettes is 18 in 46 states and DC, and the remaining four states set it at 19, not 21 like alcohol. I agree with you that kids that age really should not be drinking, but there are far better ways of protecting them than denying adult rights to 18-20 year old legal adults who are old enough to die for their country.