Alcohol Awareness Week sparks student discussion

By Gus Bode

Binge drinking, as defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, is a pattern of drinking that raises a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent in a short time span. Generally, this occurs when a male consumes five or more drinks in a two-hour period, and four or more for females. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, binge drinking creates many health issues such as liver disease and neurological damage. Impaired judgment can also lead to car crashes and sexually transmitted diseases. Photo Illustration By Steve Matzker | Daily Egyptian

Wellness Center counselors say they understand binge drinking occurs at the university and they are trying to take a realistic approach to the situation.

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Christopher Julian-Fralish, coordinator of the alcohol and drug abuse program at the Wellness Center, said for National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week, the center worked with different places across campus to educate students about safe alcohol consumption.

According to the university’s Department of Public Safety website, 76 percent of students are moderate or non-drinkers. The site also states 30 percent of students have gotten into an argument or fight because of alcohol or drug use, and 33 percent have driven a car impaired.

Michael Berman, a sophomore from Arlington Heights studying cinema, said binge drinking is prevalent on campus.

“I think there’s a lot of pressure for (college students) to drink because we can’t really drink later on in life as much as we can now,” he said.

Benjamin Penrod, a freshman from O’Fallon studying radio-television, said he doesn’t think students do not need to drink to have fun in college.

“To feel that you have to drink to enjoy everyone else is just wrong,” Penrod said. “It’s a pack mentality and it’s a college stereotype. You shouldn’t have to fit into social stereotypes just to have fun at college.”

Berman said he disagrees because drinking is an important part of having fun in college.

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“If you’re drinking, you’re cool, and if you’re not, you get exiled, almost,” he said. “People who binge drink are ashamed of it, so seeing someone not drink (watch them drink) makes them feel bad about themselves. I think many people drink to feel good about themselves.”

In 2010, there were 20 on-campus arrests for liquor law violations and 311 disciplinary actions and judicial referrals, according to the DPS website.

Of the arrests, three were in residence halls, and of the disciplinary actions, 279 were made in residence halls.

Berman said the illegality of underage alcohol consumption is often part of the appeal to college students.

“I think it’s seen as taboo, which makes it more fun for us,” he said.

The Wellness Center has a variety of ways to deal with alcohol use on campus, said Julian-Fralish. He said although encouraging alcohol abstinence can be a useful method, it is not always necessary because not everyone drinks irresponsibly.

“Part of it is just developing people’s awareness of how to drink rather than just letting loose,” he said. “It’s just attaching awareness and intent to how I do something. It’s like studying for a test; I might wing it and do okay, but if I study, I’m more likely to do better. It’s the same thing for drinking. If I have a plan prior to going out and doing something, I’m more likely to stick to it.”

Julian-Fralish said most people assume they are going to be lectured about why they should not drink when they visit the Wellness Center, but that is not the case.

“We’re not going to look away from reality,” he said. “Let’s deal with realities as they present themselves and move forward. We find we actually get a good response because we’re not telling people what to do —we’re giving them options.”

The center worked with the Greek system and screened students across campus for alcohol-use disorders. Julian-Fralish said the main focus of the week is the designated driver program.

The DD Dawg program provides designated drivers with cards which, when shown at various restaurants, bars and wineries throughout the Carbondale area, can earn them free soft drinks and/or food. Anyone in the community can become a designated driver if they pick up a card in the Wellness Center and sign a statement that says they vow to remain sober when they’re a designated driver and get their friends home safely.

“It allows you to gain some benefit for providing safe behaviors for others and being the designated driver,” Julian-Fralish said.

Pearl Franz, a freshman from Springfield studying photography and graphic design, said it can be difficult to deal with excessive binge drinkers.

“I don’t mind if people drink around me, but it comes to a point where if you’re the only coherent one, it’s not the most fun thing to be around because everyone’s in this state where they’re not themselves,” Franz said.

She said despite SIU’s reputation as a party school, students are often aware of how to handle themselves in situations where alcohol is present.

“The ones that do go out and drink will limit it to the weekends, and they’ll buckle down on their studies,” Franz said.

Julian-Fralish said he has high hopes to spread alcohol awareness the rest of the year.

“Awareness can facilitate behavior change in people,” he said.

 

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