Raising the Drinking Age
I had an entry on tuesday that I think this blog deleted because I can't find it anywhere. What a wonderful gift technology is!
I had announced on Tuesday my legislation to create a federal drinking age of 25. Right now, there is no federal drinking age, financial incentives by the federal government to the state governments keep state's drinking age at 21 nationally. Contrary to popular belief, few states specifically prohibit minors' consumption of alcohol in private settings (an exception includes Connecticut), and in some cases or states, alcohol permits can be purchased at a cost to the parent or legal guardian. The legislation I'm purposing will not only do away with those exceptions, while still allowing exceptions in regards to religious, medical and family exceptions, and raise the drinking age to 25. There are several reasons for this, but primarily it's to keep college kids away from alcohol. In our universities across the country, minors and those of age to consume alcohol are classmates and regularly attend the same parties and frequent the same social circles. In these situations, those over 21 purchase alcohol for who can't purchase it legally. It makes little sense to allow this failure of logical thinking to continue. If we raise the restriction age, we will seriously impede the ability of teenagers to acquire alcohol by classmates over 21. And in light of the President's recent tragedy we can all see how relevant and necessary this kind of restriction is.
My second reason for restricting young adults from access to alcohol has to do with the development of young people. A person's brain continues to develop into their early twenties. Exposure to alcohol can have profound and irreversible effects on the structure and function of the adolescent brain. Heavy drinking has been shown to affect the neuropsychological performance (â€œneuropsychological performanceâ€? refers to various memory skills.) of young people and may impair the growth and integrity of certain brain structures and restrict blood flow in certain brain regions and electrical brain activities, and severly impair the ablility of brain neurons to make new connections. Chemical and electrical processes are also impared. Other brain functions that alcohol consumption negatively effects are memory function, attention, visuospatial skills (which is the perception of the spatial relationships among objects within the field of vision), and executive functioning ( which is planning, abstract reasoning, and goal-directed behavior). Structures of the brain effected include the Cortex, the Corpus callosum, the Amygdala, the Hippocampus, and the Cerebellum. The Hippocampus, for example, plays an important role in learning and memory function, and adolescent drinking can lead to a decrease in volume of the Hippocampus. Furthermore, imaging studies indicate that adolecent drinkers exhibit abnormalities in some brain areas that are particularly sensitive, such as the hippocampus, and in the chemical and electrical processes that occur during brain activity.
Besides harmful neurological effects, underage drinking also has profound social and psychological effects which can have long-term effects on both physical and psychological well-being and may have long term implications. Adolescence is a period marked by the formation of identity and the establishment of more mature interpersonal and intimate relationships and a transition into adult roles. Social control lessens during this period, and people become freer to choose unconstrained behaviors and lifestyles. Constructing a stable identity can be confusing and difficult, and some teenagers use substances to relieve their identity confusion. Further, this stage of life is also marked with acquiring skills in order to function in an adult society and failure to master them can result in frustration and stress, which can lead to a variety of unhealthy behaviors, including increased alcohol use. Paradoxically, alcohol makes the successful mastery of these developmental tasks harder and may makes failures more severe and increase stress . Numerous studies have identified problems related to alcohol use, including fatal and nonfatal injuries and overdoses, academic/vocational failures, violence and other crime, unintended pregnancies, and sexually transmitted diseases. Every year approximately 2000 people under the age of 21 die in car accidents involving underage drinking. Among college students under the age of 21 alone, 50,000 experience alcohol-related date rape, and 430,000 have been asaulted by another student who has been drinking.
One of the strongest influences that lead teens to drinking at college is that many college students may drink more because of their misperceptions about the norms of drinking on their campuses. They may think campus attitudes are much more tolerant toward drinking than they are and believe other students drink much more than they actually do. By not allowing college-age people to purchase alcohol, this influence is significantly reduced and would save lives, grief and development of countless teenagers. College students should have the basic creativity to find alternative outlets for stress and for recreation that doesn't involve endangering oneself. Please vote wisely for the sake of the future of our children.
Special thanks to Dr.Kinduva B. Deale, M.D., and http://niaa.nih.gov
-Senator Victor Eremita