I have not often heard frank discussion on this topic in the Adventist schools and colleges that I've been involved with. Our focus is usually on the unambiguous rules at our institutions that prohibit any use of alcohol. It was refreshing when the Spectrum blog posted two vcasts from Pacific Union College in which students and dormitory deans talk frankly about the fact that students on Adventist campuses sometimes have issues with drinking and how they attempt to address the issue.
On Sunday, The Sunday Times published an interview with the newly appointed head of Stellenbosch University about challenges facing this university. (Stellenbosch is a traditionally Afrikaans university with approximately 20 000 students. It is situated about 20 km from Helderberg College.) One of the major themes of this interview was the problem of student drinking. The university of Stellenbosch is currently engaging with student clubs and entertainment spots to close at "reasonable" hours of the night and to co-operate in limiting student drinking.
Why am I mentioning these facts on this blog?
1. There is certainly a temptation to be proud about the fact that student drinking is not such a wholesale problem on our campuses. Adventist campuses are still a safer environment to live and study in if a person wants to make healthy lifestyle choices.
2. But I am under no illusions that we do not have students who drink. In all likelihood we have students who abuse alcohol. (In fact, according to the discussion on the Spectrum blog, it is likely that some Adventist students who come from conservative homes are likely to abuse alcohol more seriously than students who grew up with alcohol being used commonly around them) I am not convinced that we have adequately dealt with this fact. Students who struggle with this issue are usually afraid to raise the issue because they expect immediate punitive action or stigmatization. There is a shortage of communal knowledge of the problem and how to deal with it.
3. So I've started to do some research. The field is very wide. My interest is to try to come to some conclusions of what my role should be as a professional responsible for the health and wellbeing of a number of students.
In the process I found a number of facts that I feel every student should be aware of. Some basic knowledge of the effects of alcohol could save somebody's life:
Alcohol Overdose is a life threatening situation.
Alcohol overdose becomes apparent when a person consumed more alcohol than their body needs to create a pleasant euphoria, and the negative effects of alcohol begins to display themselves. What physically happens is that there is more alcohol in a person's body than the liver can process and get rid of. Levels of alcohol build up in the blood stream and negative effects of alcohol begin to present themselves.
How would a person recognise signs of an overdose?
It usually begins with slurred speech, problems with balance, loss of memory. These symptoms seem common, but they can very quickly become life threatening. Knowing the signs of a life threatening overdose can save somebody's life:
If a person is passed out or semi-conscious and cannot be awakened
If a person vomits while sleeping or passed out and does not wake up
When the rate of breathing seems slow or irregular.
If a person has cold, clammy, pale or bluish skin colour.
Why are these symptoms life threatening?
Alcohol has the ability to shut down centers in the brain that control functions like breathing, heart rate, and the gag reflex, which normally helps prevent you from choking on things like your own vomit.
What do you do when you suspect that a friend suffers from an Alcohol Overdose?
Get help immediately. This is not the time to try to hide it away. Your friend needs help.
Stay with your friend.
Lay your friend on his/her side to keep them from choking on their vomit.
Once help arrives, tell them everything that you know about what the person drank, when they had their last drink, whether other drugs were ingested, etc.
Facts and Myths about sobering up:
There is really only one way in which a person sobers up. The person's liver needs to process the alcohol and get rid of it. This will take time.
The following will not help at all:
Drinking coffee. All you get when you give coffee to a drunk person is a wide awke drunk person!
Taking a cold bath or shower. This could help with hiegiene and the person might smell better, but the will not sober up.
Sleeping it off. This could be very dangerous. It is possible to still have alcohol in the stomach that has not been absorbed, meaning that the person could become even more intoxicated while they are sleeping.
Walking it off. It might help burn off some calories but that's about it.
(Reference: In doing research I downloaded some pamphlets by an organisation, Outside The Classroom. This information comes from one of their pamphlets.)
Another useful resource on student alcohol use is: Facts on Tap.
I would love to hear my readers opinion on this issue. I would also like to offer my service and time to anybody who needs help in dealing with this issue. Would anybody else like to become involved in raising awareness of these issues on campus?