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Beware Efforts to Lower the Legal Drinking Age

January 1, 2008
by root
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I would like to comment on the cover article “Starting a Dialogue” in the September/October 2007 edition. Before commenting, I'd like to point out that in addition to being a pharmacist, I have had training as an alcohol group facilitator and worked in this capacity for several years, with both alcoholics and people who live with them. John McCardell and his organization seemed to have missed a very important point in considering a return to allowing people as young as 18 to legally drink: the innocent victims.

When considering the impact of alcohol, a truly comprehensive study would include fatalities and harms that are incurred by innocent bystanders. In this criticism, I am not limiting this to highway incidents. I am calling on Mr. McCardell and his organization to bring in all alcohol-related harms. Examples of areas that are often overlooked are the rates of rape, domestic violence, suicide, assaults, and property crime, and the cost to the victims of these crimes. It's not just about car accidents.

In “Anatomical Changes in the Emerging Adult Brain,” which appeared in the Nov. 29, 2005 online issue of the journal Human Brain Mapping, it was concluded that the human brain goes through considerable development until the mid-20s. I submit that a study of the effects of adding alcohol and drugs at this stage of neural development would show profound retarding of maturation. Perhaps the first laws to limit alcohol consumption to those over 21 were written by people who, without scientific study, knew inherently that this was the approximate time where alcohol's effects on the individual were limited. In this regard, it would be helpful to look at the lives of those who began drinking at 18 in comparison to those who began at 21. This should be a comprehensive study not limited to harms but incorporating measures of quality of life.

Leslie M. Ohmart III, Brewer, Maine