Daily Iowan: “The Siren Song of Alcohol”

This morning, Danny Valentine and a team of reporters at the Daily Iowan published a front-page feature on the worsening problem of toxic drinking at the University of Iowa. The team of writers studied University survey results, spent time riding in ambulances with local emergency medical crews, and interviewed Iowa students to produce a grim picture of the campus drinking culture. Here are a few highlights from the story:

  • The average range of blood-alcohol concentrations for students with alcohol-related violations referred to Health Iowa, a branch of the UI Student Health Service, rose from 0.13-0.17 to 0.18-0.25 in the most recent five-year period.
  • Alcohol-related ambulance calls to downtown are up 21.4 percent, a jump from 238 to 289 in the last five years.
  • The amount of dangerous drinking has become so severe that the number of calls are putting a strain on the ambulance service. It has been hit with a 37 percent increase in overall calls to downtown, a jump of nearly 200 in five years.

Former UI Provost Peter Nathan warned of a “tipping point” that could lead to a “rash of serious crime, or there will be some deaths, and the City Council will do something draconian — or the university will try to do something very, very strict. And those things would not be successful.”

The paper’s editorial board called the story “stunning,” and proposed a shift in focus for campus alcohol policies: “Merely focusing on underage drinkers possessing alcohol clouds the true problem: overconsumption.” They also implored students to take control of the situation:

“We should be adamant about discouraging the unmitigated drinking culture on this campus. We should roll our eyes at, rather than venerate, tales of black-out drunk escapades. When you know your friend has had one too many Bud Lights, don’t be silent. Positive peer pressure needs to overtake the ‘too much is never enough’ mentality.”

Read the rest of the editorial for a list of the other changes that the editorial board recommended, and then leave your own suggestions in the comments.

2 Responses to “Daily Iowan: “The Siren Song of Alcohol””

  1. Edwin Says:

    The drinking age must be lowered to 18 along with an alcohol education program. Those 18-20 must know that binge drinking is alcohol abuse. To solve the problem at the University of Iowa with the burgeoning in resources to get university students help from binge drinking, the university must be committed to stop overconsumption. Tougher laws on “underage” drinking is not the answer but is a campaign with the help of young women and young men to put pressure so that university students don’t binge drink.

  2. Ajax the Great Says:

    May I also add that the definition of “binge” drinking needs to be more accurate? Sorry, but 5 drinks (or 4 for a woman) is hardly “binging” IMO, especially for a college student. (Unless it is 5 shots in a few minutes, of course.)

    A better definition would take into account speed of drinking, fullness of stomach, body weight, and other factors. This can be done using BAC. But if we must have a quick and easy definition based on number of drinks, I would say 8/6 drinks rather than 5/4. And 10/8 drinks is currently considered “extreme” binge drinking.

    Yes, binge drinking is a serious problem. But confusing the issue just allows it to persist.