Choices With Life Altering Consequences

What if you came to college with high hopes – to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, nurse, marketing professional, sports management professional…whatever – and your dreams and life were changed forever because of one crazy night of partying.

Unfortunately, one needs to look no further than the personal tragedy reported this week in Duluth to see this scenario unfolding. An underaged university student tweets that she had 10 shots of tequila only to later spend nine hours reportedly passed out on her neighbor’s porch in 17 below temperatures. Doctors are working as hypothermia threatens the loss of one or more of her hands and feet. Thoughts and prayers remain with her and her family this holiday season.

Certainly, there will be a lot of fallout from this latest incident. The questions are sure to include: Who provided the reported 10 shots of tequila to a 19-year-old? Why didn’t the person driving her home either walk her to the door or make sure she was safely inside before driving off? Why didn’t the individual consider the consequences?

The last question has existed since the human race realized that drinking fermented grains frequently leads to bad choices. Likewise through the ages, many of us with matured sense of reason reflect on our own youth with “What was I thinking?…How did I survive that?” Youthful reason seems to have a misplaced sense of invulnerability. Yet, even matured sense of reason doesn’t stop us from doing stupid things like getting behind the wheel of a car after overlooking that “drink with moderation” small print on the bottle being tipped.

Still, students sadly top the statistical list of bad alcohol-related experiences. As much as we wish it wasn’t true and work to prevent it, such episodes have occurred and have the potential for occurring at this university. No university is immune. All we can do is keep driving home the warnings and keep saying, “See, see what can happen” when another alcohol-related tragedy strikes a college campus. For those who want to believe that youth is bulletproof, such warnings and admonishments often go unheeded – sometimes even ridiculed – until tragedy strikes close to home.

So here is another opportunity for viewing the statistics before becoming one. Please, let’s all take these to heart:

According to

  • The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that 80 percent of college student drink – 50 percent said they engaged in binge drinking in the past two weeks.
  • Binge drinking is defined as four drinks in two hours for a woman and five drinks in two hours for a man; both result in a .08 blood-alcohol-content (BAC) level. (QUESTION: Why do people with statistically most of their lives in front of them and the most to live for, feel the need to rush the effects of alcohol?).
  • About one half of all fatal car crashes among 18- to 24-year-olds are alcohol related, many of which are college students.
  • An estimated 1,825 students die yearly of unintended alcohol-related accidents, including motor vehicle accidents.
  • Another 599,000 will be seriously injured.
  • More than 150,000 students suffer drinking-related health problems.
  • 1.2 to 1.5 percent of students attempt suicide on account of drinking or drug use.
  • 54 percent of binge drinkers have experienced significant memory loss at least once in the last year.
  • 400,000 students report engaging in unprotected sex while under the influence.
  • Of those, 100,000 report being too intoxicated to remember giving consent.
  • 696,000 students are assaulted by another student who’s been drinking.
  • 97,000 students are the victims of alcohol related sexual assault or rape.
  • According to the Cal poly San Luis Obispo Health & Counseling Services, roughly 90 percent of all reported rapes and sexual assaults occurred when alcohol had been used by either the attacker or the victim.

– Lenny Koupal

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