The federal law that made the national minimum drinking age 21 turns 21 itself this month. A survey finds 78-percent of Americans think the drinking age should remain where it is, while 21-percent favor dropping it to the voting age of 18. Jay Hansen, executive director of Prairie Ridge Addiction Treatment Services in Mason City, sides with the majority. He says the drinking age is still debated the most on college campuses, especially in Iowa City, where there have been problems with bars serving underage customers and with binge drinking. Hansen says most college campuses don’t pay much attention to the 21-limit, saying the norm is almost drinking at will. He says college town leaders need to take a tougher stance on access, especially in Iowa City were 21-year-olds are still allowed into bars but aren’t supposed to be allowed to drink. Hansen says his treatment facility can help those early addicts. About 250 juveniles with alcohol addiction are referred there each year, about half of whom get simple assessment and prevention services while the others are enrolled in a more intensive treatment program. Hansen says the earlier an adolescent drinking problem can be addressed and treated, the better. He says a young person who can remain free from experimenting alcohol and other drugs until age 21 has an almost zero-percent chance of becoming addicted as an adult, but if they start by the age of 12, their chances for addiction are much higher. Hansen says they advocate teaching teens to make better, different choices so they remain safer and hopefully, will delay the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs until they’re adults.
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