College students will drink. And, though many can do it responsibly, there are those -- both of-age and underage -- who do it to excess and run the risk of harming themselves and/or others.
At the University of Colorado, student safety is paramount, and campus officials aren`t shy about sharing ways students can stay safe.
Learn more about alcohol use and abuse on the University of Colorado`s Web site at colorado.edu/alcohol . Students also can call the CU Helpline at 303-492-1000 or visit cuhelpline.com . And for more information on the CU Counseling and Psychological Services` Oasis sober-lifestyle program, visit colorado.edu/sacs/counseling/oasis .
Be a Good Samaritan
The University of Colorado`s Good Samaritan Provision was created in 2004 in response to freshman Gordie Bailey`s alcohol-poisoning death.
This provision allows that whenever a student assists an intoxicated individual in procuring the assistance of local or state police, CU night security, residence life staff, or medical professionals, neither the intoxicated person nor the person who assists will be subject to formal university disciplinary actions (such as probation, suspension in abeyance, suspension, or expulsion) with respect to the alcohol incident.
"Alcohol is the No. 1 public health hazard on university campuses," said Donald Misch, assistant vice chancellor for health and wellness at CU. "It is the cause or primary factor in (a majority) of suicides, unintentional deaths, physical injuries, distressed personal relationships, legal problems, sexual assault, property damage and academic failure."
That`s quite a list of misfortunes. Thankfully, you can stave off many of them by consistently doing one simple action, Misch said: "Drink responsibly -- drink moderate amounts over time."
Preventing excess drinking can be done by eating before you drink liquor and/or alternating each alcoholic beverage with a nonalcoholic one, Misch said.
Though drinking a lot is dangerous under any circumstances, one of the most perilous things you can do is "pre-gaming," or drinking before going to a bar, party, etc.
"There is a substantial risk because you`ve already taken in an enormous amount of alcohol," Misch said.
This is exacerbated by a shift over time among students from beer drinking to harder liquor, multiplying the potential for harm.
"You can get drunker faster on smaller amounts -- you probably can`t drink 20 beers in 20 minutes, but you can probably drink 20 shots in 20 minutes," Misch said.
Drinking too much can lead to a harmful and potentially deadly result: alcohol poisoning. Not understanding the effects of alcohol on the body can lead students to underestimate how drunk -- and compromised -- a friend might be, Misch said.
"Students need to recognize that you can die from alcohol alone," he said. "They`ll say, 'so-and-so passed out, so we put him to bed. We came in the next morning, and he wasn`t breathing.` Be careful in assuming (how much someone has had to drink)."
Spotting problem drinking in oneself and others is a matter of noticing the "various ways alcohol can negatively impact" one`s life, Misch said. Warning signs include tolerance, where one needs more liquor to get the desired effect, withdrawal symptoms and "preoccupation (with liquor) to the relative exclusion of other things."
Matthew Tomatz, substance abuse program coordinator with Counseling and Psychological Services at CU, identified other danger signs, including "doing things dangerously or recklessly."
"Doing something like driving intoxicated could be a sign that you`ve crossed the line into a new area of abuse," Tomatz said. "You can also receive feedback from friends -- if they tell you they think you have a problem -- or the legal system, by receiving two to three MIPs (Minor in Possession charges)."
Students who develop a drinking problem can find help at several places around CU.
The Psychological Health and Psychiatry Clinic at Wardenburg Health Center hosts a program called Focus on Alcohol Concerns, Tomatz said, which is "a six-hour educational program offered as a court diversion class for students who are cited for underage drinking," according to the Wardenburg Web site.
The mental health clinic at Wardenburg can also help evaluate whether or not students have a drinking problem before prescribing treatment options.
Free programs at Counseling and Psychological Services can also help students contend with alcohol abuse. Along with one-on-one counseling, Tomatz himself oversees two programs devoted to helping students lead a fulfilling, sober lifestyle: I Like to Party, But... and Oasis.
I Like to Party, But... gives students a chance to "look at substance abuse" and brainstorm "harm reduction" strategies to avoid the headaches of overindulging, Tomatz said.
Oasis, like its name suggests, is a sanctuary for students looking to remain sober.
"Oasis is a place for students who choose not to drink or drug," Tomatz said, "Because they`re in recovery, choose not to do so as a lifestyle choice or (use) but want to learn more about a sober lifestyle."