The consequences of early alcohol access: Why America’s 21+ drinking laws are a good thing

Amalie Davidsen
Opinion Writer
adavidse@unca.edu

“Julefrokost,” every year!

In Denmark, Christmas lunches are huge for young and elderly folks. It is that time of year people can be shitfaced beyond all limits. It has little to do with Christmas, other than eating good food in the company of friends or colleagues. One thing is for sure; every Dane loves it, even the queen.  

I clearly remember when my friend went to his first Christmas lunch. I was in America so I had to experience it over the phone, but I was very excited to get all the gossip from him and his parents.

He had left his house with a 24-pack of “Tuborg Pilsner,” which is Danish beer, and a bottle of Absolut Vodka, to go to the local club where he would meet his friends and acquaintances.

Together they would meet up to gather the alcohol and enjoy a traditional Danish “Julefrokost” dinner; all sorts of herring imaginable, roasted pork, everything pickled, as well as snaps, which is a strong, almost undrinkable Scandinavian liquor taken during the course of an often ritualistic meal.

After the dinner, my friend, along with some other boys his age were drinking heavily. That is all my my could tell me of his night.

At 3 a.m. his next-door neighbors, a father and his grown son, stood outside his front door with my friend who had passed out on the ground. They had found my 16-year-old friend in the bushes on a cold November night without his jacket. It must have been 14 degrees outside.

Looking back, this is a funny story his parents and I tease him once in awhile. Sadly, at least a couple of kids freeze to death every year in Denmark because of extreme intoxication. I do not even want to think about what would have happened to my friend if his neighbors had not found him that night.

Of course, I also remember my first Christmas lunch, but at that time I had been familiar with alcohol for a couple of years, so it did not hit me as hard as my friend’s first time.

I do remember the first time going out drinking with a few friends. I was about 15 years old, but my friends had been going out since they were 13.

In Denmark you have to be 16 years old to buy alcohol. However, small shops called “Perker Kiosker” make all their profit on selling cigarettes and alcohol to under-aged people. These shops usually close down after a year, because people drop a dime on them, but then another will most likely open, and alcohol and cigarettes will once again be sold illegally. Therefore, it was not a problem for me to get drinks at any time.

Alcohol is a big part of Danish culture and has an important social aspect as well. Alcohol is served at parties hosted by high schools on school grounds and takes part in every holiday and people start drinking early. It is also legal for kids to drink at any age if they are in a private location.

Furthermore, it is not allowed for police to arrest or fine drunk kids running around in the streets, no matter what age, unless they are intoxicated enough to cause danger. Also, it is looked down upon if somebody chooses not to drink because it somewhat ruins good social times.

In America, college kids hide in the bathroom when police are pulling up at parties, and alcohol is not allowed visibly on the streets. Having open bottles of alcohol in your car is illegal. In my experience, people are much more careful and responsible when dealing with alcohol in America.  

Cocaine, MDMA and ecstasy are huge trends among high school and college kids in Denmark, who most likely got tired of the buzz alcohol gave them and therefore started experimenting. I have seen close friends lose everything because of alcohol and cocaine abuse. I also have friends who like to experiment with ketamine, a type of horse tranquilizer, mixed with ecstasy or LSD, the same kids that began drinking at age 13.

I clearly remember my fear of the over 21 alcohol rule in America, and I even prepared myself for not being able to drink my first couple of years in Asheville.

I quickly found out people under 21 find other ways to get alcohol, and private parties are more common here than in Denmark, which quickly eased my fear.

Young people want to have fun, and alcoholism is also a reality in America. I believe it is healthy for kids to wait until they are grown up to be able to deal with alcohol on a casual basis, and therefore I do see the point of the restriction of alcohol and its availability to people under 21.

I have seen the consequences of underage drinking. People get bored and want to try something that can give them a higher buzz. Alcohol turns into weed, weed turns into hash, hash turn into cocaine, until drugs are all that matters.      

 

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