Many young people around the world look forward to the day when they reach legal drinking age. Because of issues associated with drinking alcohol and the resulting intoxication, many nations have instituted a minimum age that an individual must reach before he or she is allowed to consume or purchase alcohol. Depending on cultural norms, this age varies widely, from around 16 to 25 in many places.
The highest drinking age is 25 in some regions of some countries, including parts of India. The legal drinking age in the United States, Kazakhstan, and Micronesia is 21. Several other nations, including Japan and Iceland, follow closely behind, with an age of 20. In these countries, it is believed that setting a higher drinking age encourages people to be more responsible, and also cuts down on the frequency of accidents involving youth and alcohol. In most countries, the age at which alcohol can be consumed is 18.
When it comes to purchasing alcohol, the lowest age is 16, and this is the minimum age in many European countries including Belgium, Spain, and Austria. Some nations such as Germany have a legal drinking age of 16 for beer and wine, but a higher minimum age of 18 for hard liquor or spirits. Other countries allow minors to drink at home under adult supervision, but not out in public; Great Britain, for example, allows children as young as five to drink at home, although they cannot purchase alcohol until they are 18.
Other countries have no minimum age at all. Nations with no legal drinking age limit include Armenia, Cambodia, and Morocco. Some of these nations do impose a limit of 16 or 18 on the ability to purchase alcohol legally or be served in bars. In actuality, most people under the minimum purchasing age in these countries are readily able to obtain alcohol.
It is also important to note that there are a number of countries in which alcohol consumption is banned. These are largely Muslim countries, and the laws may vary for Muslim and non-Muslim residents. Countries in which alcohol is banned include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Saudi Arabia.
Underage drinking is viewed as a problem in many places, especially in nations like the United States, which do not allow people to drink until they have reached the age of 21. While exceptions are made for religious purposes, such as the consumption of communion wine, other infractions of the minimum age can be severely punished, especially if the individual in question is operating a motor vehicle. The legal drinking age has been a topic of debate in these nations, although most medical and legal professionals would prefer to see the drinking age left at 21.
Drinking alcohol safely takes experience, and inexperienced drinkers can often find themselves in bad situations. The minimum drinking age is designed to help circumvent this, in the hopes that the additional life experienced gained with age will help to offset some of the effects of alcohol. Even people with years of experience can make mistakes with alcohol, however. For this reason, it is important for individuals to drink alcohol responsibly and make sure that friends, colleagues, and even complete strangers do likewise.