News - Is teenage binge drinking really such a bad thing?

Yes. Binge drinking is consistently correlated with frequent arrests, fights, vandalism and physical harm to oneself and others.

National studies and police reports repeatedly confirm that the drug of choice for teens — the one linked to problems for college students in particular — is alcohol. Binge drinking, defined as more than five drinks in one sitting, is consistently correlated with frequent arrests, fights, vandalism and physical harm to oneself and others.

So apparently teen binge drinking is really such a bad thing only if arrests, vandalism, physical harm and other health risks are bad things. And sooner or later, most of us who indulged in teen binge drinking — and the subsequent teen vomiting or even teen stomach pumping — decided it was a bad thing.

While the phenomenon is nothing new (a sheriff leads Harvard University's graduation procession, to control drunk and rowdy celebrants), there is a relatively new idea afloat to address it. Turns out the media can play an active role in discouraging teen binge drinking. According to one influential study, scolding and/or trying to scare kids into drinking in moderation is not effective — but convincing them that binge drinking is not the social norm is.

The study, headed by Michael P. Haines of Northern Illinois University, demonstrates that when college kids learn that only, say, 40 percent of their peers — rather than the perceived 70-90 percent — indulge in binge drinking, they are less likely to binge drink. "The overestimation of student binge drinking is a self-fulfilling prophecy," the study says. "The more students believe binge drinking is occurring, the more binge drinking occurs."

It's a question of whether our binge-drinking cup (or is it a funnel?) is half-empty or half-full. Consider the following newspaper headline cited in the study: "Binge" drinking at nation's colleges is widespread, a Harvard study finds

The article went on to note that almost half of all students surveyed admitted to binge drinking. What if, instead, the story pointed out that more than half of all students surveyed reported moderate drinking as the campus norm. The headline might have been: Majority of college students drink moderately or not at all, a Harvard study finds.

And on campuses where a concerted effort has been made — using various PR tactics and other propaganda — to show teens that they will be in the majority if they don't binge drink, the behavior decreased demonstrably. And is that really such a bad thing?

A busy media strategist and publisher, Howard Lalli has no time for drinking — binge or otherwise.??

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