The 18th Amendment, the prohibition of the manufacture, sale and distribution of alcohol, was caused by the widespread belief that the consumption of alcohol was deteriorating Americans' health, lowering productivity and causing criminal activities, according to History.com. The 18th Amendment was ratified by Congress on Jan. 29, 1919, and it went into effect the next January.
Later in 1919, the Volstead Act, or National Prohibition Act, was passed; it gave the government the power to enforce the 18th Amendment. The Volstead Act defined an intoxicating beverage as one that contained more than 0.5 percent alcohol and listed the penalties and exceptions for the manufacture, transportation and sale of alcoholic beverages. Though it was enacted to reduce drunkenness and crime, the 18th Amendment actually increased crime rates, according to the Constitution Center. Prior to the 18th Amendment, it was common for Americans to consume alcohol daily and in large quantities, up to the equivalent of four shots per day. The Constitution Center states that this is the largest measured volume of alcohol consumption in U.S. history. Rather than making America a dry country, the 18th Amendment gave rise to bootleggers, speakeasies, government corruption, a blatant disregard for law enforcement and an increase in illegal activities. The 18th Amendment was repealed on Dec. 5, 1933 by the ratification of the 21st Amendment.