The Minimum Legal Drinking Age of 21 as a Policy Problem

The Minimum Legal Drinking Age of 21 as a Policy Problem

Student’s name

Institutional affiliation

The Minimum Legal Drinking Age of 21 as a Policy Problem


Target audience: scholars and policy designers, and implementers

The legal minimum drinking age is 21 years across all 50 US states, although there are exceptions to this rule. Exceptions include medical reasons, basic consumption and under adult supervision. The legal age for purchasing alcohol varied from state to state before enacting the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. Some reasons cited for having the legal drinking age as 21 include reduced motor vehicle crashes and protecting users from adverse birth outcomes, drug dependence, and homicide and suicide. While the outcomes of having 21 as the minimum legal drinking age benefit health, there is a policy gap as it only pushes underage individuals to binge drink (Fell & Scherer, 2017). Maintaining the legal drinking age of 21 does not guarantee that 18-year-olds will not drink as it only results in drinking in less controlled environments.


The only alternative to the MLDA law is reducing the legal drinking age to 18 years. Having 18 as the minimum drinking age has pros and cons. One advantage is that it would help reduce binge drinking. This follows the belief that when young people have easier access to alcohol, they will not have the thrill of drinking excessively granted an opportunity. This is because they do not have to deal with hiding or obtaining fake IDs. Another pro is that it creates a much safer drinking environment as individuals are likely to call higher authorities such as the police in case of an emergency situation like alcohol poisoning (Carpenter & Dobkin, 2017). On the downside, lowering the legal drinking age to 18 is not advisable as a person’s brain is not fully developed by then. Alcohol interferes with the brain development process. It would also increase irresponsible drinking behavior as eighteen-year-olds are usually not as experienced.


To resolve the minimum legal drinking age dilemma in the United States, the ideal solution is to reduce the minimum drinking age to 18 years. Policy designers and implementers must push for having 18 years as the minimum drinking age and comparing outcomes. This would be the best solution because it would give society a chance to witness, document, and compare the actual outcomes of having 18 and 21 years as minimum legal requirements. Reducing the legal drinking age would be the right move as we would see reduced cases of road fatalities. After all, the United States has more drunken driving-related fatalities than countries with 18 years are its minimum legal drinking age.


Various steps must be followed to implement the policy of 18 years as the minimum legal drinking age. The first step is identifying a need which in this case is reducing the legal drinking age from 21 to 18 years. The next step would be appointing an individual or team to lead responsibility, such as a committee. Step three has to do with collecting information and step four is drafting the policy (Zainal, 2020). In step five, consultation with appropriate stakeholders takes place, and in the next step, the policy is finalized. Then, it is considered whether procedures are required to provide guidance on how the policy shall be implemented. For instance, procedures for collecting and addressing complaints and who will handle them. The next step is implementing the policy itself, and this includes supporting the policy implementers. The final step is all monitoring, reviewing, and revising.


Carpenter, C., & Dobkin, C. (2017). The minimum legal drinking age and morbidity in the United States. Review of Economics and Statistics, 99(1), 95-104.

Fell, J. C., & Scherer, M. (2017). Estimation of the potential effectiveness of lowering the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for driving from 0.08 to 0.05 grams per deciliter in the United States. Alcoholism: clinical and experimental research, 41(12), 2128-2139.

Zainal, A. G. (2020). Requirement and Difficulties to Implement the Policy Lifecycle Model for Systems Management. International Journal of Advanced Science and Technology, 29(6s), 472-478.