Wednesday, May 21, 2008

21st Birthday Binge Drinking: a rite of passage?

by Alex Mazer

Turning 21; most students call it the "rite of passage" into the world of drinking and going to bars. Some students may be going a little too far when they turn 21. Many students at Ohio University and across the country drink a dangerous amount on their 21st birthdays according to a University of Missouristudy published by the American Psychological Association. General Manager of The Pub, Tom VanDyke, says he thinks it's all about the tradition but also says the law is being broken and students are drinking in their homes underage and unsupervised.

Bar manager Tom VanDyke talks about the problem of students drinking before they are of legal age and the dangers of the lack of supervision.

"The law is being broken constantly; they are drinking in the neighborhoods where they are unsupervised where they can fall on their face and be hurt," says VanDyke. When students come to the bars there is a controlled situation and the bartenders can monitor people to make sure no one gets hurt or too intoxicated because they are responsible for all patrons and liable if anyone gets hurt while inside the bar.

VanDyke says he trains all his employees to know how to deal with intoxicated people and know when to cut people off when they have had too much. He wants all of his bartenders and bouncers to be aware of what is going on in the bar in order to catch problems before they escalate further.

Nurse Manager of the Emergency Department at O'Bleness Memorial Hospital Karen Robinson says she believes this problem is not just a problem for Ohio University. Students everywhere deal with the peer pressure to drink a lot on their birthdays. "They are young, away from home, and away from their parents, it's their peers, it's peer pressures," says Robinson; being away from home and away from parents and rules that make students go a little overboard with consuming alcohol.

Robinson says the hospital sees more patients Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights as a result of over-intoxication. Anything from alcohol poisoning to injuries as a result of binge drinking.

She also says students need to understand the dangers of binge drinking and be smart while they are out in social settings.

Karen Robinson talks about ways to drink safely

While you're out, Robinson says:
DO Have someone who can take care of you in the event something were to happen
DON'T leave your friends
DON'T let friends walk home alone or with someone you don't know
DON'T leave your drinks unattended and watch your beers being opened or drinks being poured
DO drink water while out
DO eat before going out and during the night

Ohio University's Health Promotion Office offers alcohol education on its website. It also requires students to take an alcohol education class before arriving on campus their freshman year.

On this website parents are also encouraged to talk to their kids about the dangers of binge drinking.

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