When do you think the average American has their first alcoholic drink? If all Americans perfectly followed the law to the letter, the answer would be fairly simple: 21 years old. That is the legal drinking age in every state and it is illegal for people under this age to drink or buy alcohol, except in very rare circumstances.
But is this what people actually do? As you may have guessed, it certainly isn’t. The average age of a first drink in the United States is right around 14 or 15 years old. It has slowly been trending upward, but it is certainly nowhere near 21 years old. At this point, the average person has alcohol for the first time when they are a freshman or a sophomore in high school. By college, almost everyone has at least tried alcohol, even if doing so was illegal.
This does not indicate heavy drinking
One important thing to note is that this study does not say that most Americans are consistently drinking by 15 years old or that they are drinking heavily. All someone would have to do is have a swallow of a parent’s beer or take one single shot with their high school friends at a social gathering. They may never be caught, they may not be arrested, they may not get a DUI and they may never have alcohol again – but they would still count toward these statistics.
Why do young people drink?
There are many different reasons why young people decide to consume alcohol. In a lot of cases, it’s decidedly because it is illegal, and they are curious. Prohibiting a certain action always makes people want to find out why, especially when they are young.
Another reason is simply peer pressure. If a young person is in a social group where drinking starts to become the norm, it may be expected of them. They could refuse on the grounds that it is illegal, but they may risk being pushed out of the social group or being ridiculed by their friends. Since acceptance is so incredibly important to people at this age, they may do things that they know they shouldn’t do – such as drinking and driving – just in an effort to fit in.
If this means that your child gets arrested in high school or college, then you absolutely need to know about all of the legal defense options you have and how to protect their future.