Daily Egyptian

What you need to know before ‘Drunktober’

By Cory Ray |@coryray_DE, Daily Egyptian

Pumpkin-spiced beer may have found its niche. 

For four straight weekends, Carbondale will have some of the year’s most notorious events: Unofficial Halloween on Oct. 16 and 17; homecoming celebrations the week leading up to the game on Oct. 24; Halloween; and Tour De Carbondale, scheduled for Nov. 7. 

Dubbed “Drunktober” on social media, the celebrations bring multiple opportunities to drink alcohol. With the exception of homecoming — a university-supported occasion, which includes a tailgate — the events are historically oriented around binge-drinking.

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“As a culture, we drink to celebrate things,” said Jane Nichols, professor at the SIU Rehabilitation Institute. “It’s a norm when there’s an event to have alcohol associated with it.”

Nichols said many people who attend these events will celebrate with alcohol and relates it to coming of age. But, she says, partaking in the binge-drinking celebrations comes with risks, like people who have not drank before drinking too much, too quickly. College students tend to become drunk faster than other age groups, Nichols said.

Nichols said people should be aware of what they drink, as partygoers may not know what is in beverages being served or what types of alcohol are being mixed together.

Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol increases the risk of losing consciousness or experiencing drug-induced amnesia, which are both indicators of alcohol poisoning. Nichols advises to never leave an unconscious person alone, as they could choke on vomit or have respiratory arrest.

Other signs of alcohol poisoning include slow or irregular breathing, seizures or hypothermia because alcohol — a central nervous system depressant — causes reduced brain and organ function, according to Mayo Clinic. 

Alcohol use by college students has remained relatively the same with time, but the use of other drugs is increasing, according to Nichols. Mixing alcohol and medications can cause increased side effects or abnormal and potentially fatal, physiological responses, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

“Every time you got out and drink more than you need to, the chances of you getting in some kind of trouble go up,” Nichols said. “It’s just a matter of odds. That’s the biggest danger I see.”

Nichols said if individuals decide to drink during an event like Unofficial Halloween, they should alternate alcoholic beverages and water.

Rosslind Rice, communications coordinator for Southern Illinois Healthcare, said Carbondale has increased hospital visits on Unofficial Halloween, including anything from high blood alcohol levels to physical injuries.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner in August passed a law granting immunity to those who call 911 for medical assistance involving an underage drinker. The law, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2016, aims to ensure individuals receive medical treatment if needed, as adolescents may not seek medical assistance for fear of legal consequences.

Troy Vaughn, director of the Recreation Center, said alternative programs have been offered in the past for students wishing not to drink on these weekends, such as keeping the center open until 2 a.m. As of now, the Recreation Center has not yet decided if it will extend hours anytime in October.

“There’s a wide assortment of activities and offerings that are non-alcohol related that will be going on,” Vaughn said. “That’s our role … of what we should be doing in providing [alternative] outlets.” 

Cory Ray can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @coryray_DE

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