New Found Freedom Comes With Alcohol Awareness

by LENNY KOUPAL, CSU Communications Coordinator

Weekly throughout each academic year, campus events at Minnesota State Mankato provide free activities and events offering a safe alternative to alcohol-induced partying. But as Stomper says, “This ain’t our first rodeo.”

Well aware that drinking is generally the unsanctioned part of the college experience, Minnesota State Mankato maintains offices where keeping students safe is part of their daily duties.

For Lori Marti, health education with Student Health Services, such services start with a dose of reality.

“By the time students graduate from high school, over 50 percent have experienced drinking. explained. “Drinking is not a new experience.”

She added what is different for students arriving to college is that parameters – often established by parents – no longer exist for helping them stay safe.

“Out of lack of experience and no more ‘guard rails,’ new students often learn through the school of hard knocks,” Marti said. “They don’t know how to self-monitor.”

Staying Safe

Here are pointers Marti offers for staying safe:

  • Eat before you go out. Something in your stomach helps slow down the body’s absorption of alcohol.
  • Don’t make drinking the focus. If it is, it may be time to find a different group of friends.
  • Come up with reasons for not drinking. It doesn’t have to be a “big story.” It could be simply stated as: “I am the sober driver” or “I took my allergy meds and they don’t play well with alcohol.”
  • Pace yourself. Try limiting yourself to one drink an hour. When your drink is gone, substitute water. Stay hydrated and keep your stomach full.
  • Avoid drinking games, especially one doing shots. Shots can have a delayed reaction. You don’t think they are having an effect until it’s too late.

The ‘Sweet Spot”

Among alcohol awareness information available through Student Health Services is a small packet containing information on what is termed “the Sweet Spot.” That represents the number of drinks a person can have and stay in a safer, “buzz” range.

“Contrary to popular belief, we actually feel the every best (when drinking) when our blood alcohol concentration is between a .02-06. Whaaaat? You heard right – it doesn’t take much alcohol to catch a great buzz, feel relaxed and sociable,” the handout states

For a 120-pound woman, that is about 2.5 drinks over a two-hour period.

Legally Intoxicated Is Closer Than You Think

The packet also includes a blood alcohol calculator. That same 120-pound woman can be legally intoxicated after drinking 2 drinks within an hour’s time. The chart determines a drink as one 12oz. beer or 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 oz of hard liquor.

Many students today conceal their alcohol in soda or water bottles. If you fill a one liter soda bottle with hard liquor that is the equivalent of more than 22 shots.

Save A Life: Know The Signs Of Alcohol Poisoning

A third handout in the packet include life saving information for instances of alcohol poisoning. The magnet uses the acronyms MUST HELP that spell the signs of alcohol poisoning – Mental confusion, Unresponsive, Snoring (gasping for air), Throwing up, Hypothermia, Erratic breathing, Loss of consciousness, Pale or bluish skin.

Marti added that symptoms of alcohol poisoning, if not treated, escalate because blood alcohol levels can continue to go up even after a person passes out.

When this happens during a party, fellow parties can react in ways that range from ignoring the individual to pulling pranks at their expense.

“There’s times when people think its so funny to drawn or mark all over the face of someone who is passed out,” Marti said. “That is totally unacceptable behavior because if that person is not responding, that person is unconscious.”

The proper action is to stay with that person. Be aware of the MUST HELP signs and try to determine the state of the intoxicated individual. A brisk sternum rub or pulling a whisker or hair can help determine alertness. If the individual is non-responsive, it is time to call 911.

Under Alcohol Amnesty laws, an individual who calls for emergency assistance and stays with the person until medical help arrives cannot be charged with an alcohol related offense.

Marti adds that it takes a brave sense of maturity to come to the aid of an individual, particularly when it means “being brave enough to call 911 and get a party busted.”

Marti added a more important consideration is the long-term impact on your life and death decision.

“Can you help a friend – or maybe a complete stranger? Do you want to call 911 and save someone’s life or say ‘I don’t know that person.’ You just never know whose life you may save,” Marti said.

While the University has not experienced a death related to alcohol poisoning since 2008, Marti said educating students to keep them safe and healthy is a prime directive in sharing the sobering facts about the dangers and consequences of excessive alcohol use.

The Student Health Services offers helpful online information including the archives of “Take A Shot Q&A” with timely topics addressing facts and myths about substance use and abuse. Their site also includes information on Drug and Alcohol Information

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