Editorial: Raise the Legal Drinking Age to 25

Alina Zang, Reporter

88,000.  Every year 88,000 people die preventable deaths.

These preventable deaths are all the product of alcohol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This excessive amount of dangerous alcohol use is evidently caused by addiction to the drink, which researchers have found comes very easily to brains that are not fully developed. Brains do not fully mature until around the age of 25, yet the legal drinking age is 21.

To prevent addiction in developing brains, this legal drinking age should be raised to a more reasonable number such as 25.

“Longitudinal neuroimaging studies demonstrate that the adolescent brain continues to mature well into the 20s,” according to an article published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Brain development includes things like myelination and synaptic pruning, processes that help the brain function and perform complex functions.

A large part of brain development is in the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex controls things like our attention, planning and decision making, impulses, cognition, personality development, and short-term memory. However, according to research published in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, “…drug abuse (caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol)… can influence the development and maturation of the adolescent brain.” The prefrontal cortex is important to making someone unique and guides their judgement, so damaging it could change them forever.

Another large part of brain development is the growth of the brain’s reward mechanism, the limbic system. This system is usually activated when the brain assumes something necessary for survival is happening and responds by releasing pleasure-inducing chemicals. However, drug abuse hijacks this system, mimicking it or overworking it. Again according to research published in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, “…adolescents are more vulnerable to nicotine, alcohol, and other drug addictions because the limbic brain regions that govern impulse and motivation are not yet fully developed.”

This system reaches its peak during puberty, but the level of activation will drift back to normal around age 25. If substance abuse is so impactful on this system, it would make sense to legalize an addictive drug like alcohol during the time this reward system works at its best.

During the years that a person’s brain is maturing, addiction is an easy and common pitfall that can change someone’s life. According to National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), when it comes to alcohol, the abuse of this drug causes many problems.

These can include heart issues, liver inflammations, pancreatitis, increased risk of multiple types of cancer, and a weakened immune system.

These detrimental risks should be avoided at all costs. Because immature brains are rather vulnerable to the risks of addiction, the current legal drinking age could mean a lot more cases of alcoholism than there would be if the age was raised to 25.

If you want this to change, contact Pennsylvania’s governor here and let your voice be heard. Let’s lower those 88,000 alcohol induced deaths.