Editorial: Media attention on binge drinking lacks solutions

First drunkorexia, now binge drinking.

Lately, in every newspaper and news program, all that can be seen is the “scary” trend of binge drinking.

That’s right, college students, you are all irresponsible drinkers who not only drink way too often on any given week, you have no self-control, drink way too much and can’t keep your alcohol down.

Your weak minds are easily swayed by those careless bars that target youngsters with attractive advertisements like nickel-beer nights.

Worry not, young person, the media are looking out for you. They have made sure to report on what a problem this is and how it is affecting you and your parents’ pockets.

The Orlando Sentinel, for example, ran an article from the Associated Press on how bars surrounding the University of Central Florida target students with promotions like “$2 Tuesdays” and “Wacky Wednesdays” and how college students lack self-control and buy into them. Other media outlets have run similar stories, all addressing a “new” trend that seems to be fueled more by media hype than a sudden surge in underage drinking.

A lot of this buzz can be attributed to the Amethyst Initiative, a petition signed by university presidents nationwide who seek that the legal drinking age be brought up for debate. Their stance, according to their Web site, is that the unintended consequences of the drinking age being set at 21 — such as binge drinking — are creating a dangerous environment for young people. Therefore, the legislative approach should be reevaluated.

While it is laudable that universities and other organizations are looking into ways to curb binge drinking, the media should note that this is an age-old problem, not a flaw distinguishing today’s college students from their predecessors.

The latest information available on binge drinking from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that in 2002 the percentage of binge drinkers was 40.4. Though it declined to 39.4 percent and 40.2 percent in 2003 and 2004 respectively, by 2005 it was back to 40.4 percent. There is no statistical data definitively stating that binge drinking is on the rise.

This doesn’t mean the issue should be ignored. The focus, however, should be shifted from condemning youth for their behavior to coming up with effective solutions for improving that behavior.

As a USF task force prepares to review the University’s alcohol policies, hopefully it will take the statistics into consideration and not get caught up in the hype. It’s a lot easier to remind students to drink responsibly when that reminder isn’t delivered with a “back in my day” speech.