The month of April is alcohol awareness month and a great time to step back, think about the dangers of alcohol abuse and how to drink responsibly.
Teresa Conklin, a nurse practitioner at Seton Hall University Health Services, explained what kind of harmful effects alcohol misuse has on the body and provided some advice on what kinds of precautions students can take.
She said that aside from damage to the liver and gastrointestinal tract, alcohol abuse can injure the brain and damage the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain involved with learning and memory.
Conklin said that alcohol abuse has also been associated with cancer, cardiovascular disease and hypertension.
How much alcohol is too much? This depends on the individual, but Conklin said that a healthy, moderate level of alcohol consumption for women is generally three drinks in one sitting without exceeding seven drinks per week. For men, four drinks in one sitting and no more than 14 per week is healthy.
Conklin provided six steps to follow when drinking alcohol.
“1. Keep track, count and measure: know what a standard drink is and stay within the healthy range. 2. Pace and space: make every other drink non-alcoholic. 3. Include food: don’t drink on an empty stomach. 4. Avoid triggers: stress, loneliness, anger, etc. can lead to binge drinking. 5. Have a plan: go out with a friend – a ‘sober buddy’ – who can help you keep track of your drinking and get you home safely. 6. Learn how to say ‘no’: be polite and firm, your friends will understand.”
If these steps are difficult to follow and an individual has a problem controlling the intake of alcohol, Conklin said they should seek professional help. What kinds of risks are involved in alcohol abuse?
“Alcohol misuse and especially binge drinking is associated with many risks including accidents, injuries, sexually transmitted infections, increased healthcare costs, violence and death. Alcohol misuse is actually the third leading cause of preventable death,” Conklin said.
Health Services has recently implemented an alcohol screening and brief intervention program to help identify students who engage in risky drinking behaviors.
“This gives us an opportunity to educate and counsel students to minimize their risk,” Conklin said.
This is a recommended clinical guideline endorsed by the United States Preventive Services Task Force and the Center for Disease Control. The Department of Student Life also includes an Alcohol and Other Drug Education and Prevention Office.
Ashlee Carter, the assistant director of Student Life, discussed the multiple alcohol awareness and educational programs offered. She said any organization, group, staff, faculty, or student can request programs at any time.
“We have a variety of signature programs that are specific to certain topics, or cover alcohol education in a more broad sense,” Carter said.
These include “The Anatomy of the Red Cup,” which discusses the standard drink size, “Drink Like a Lady, Act Like a Woman,” a program that addresses how alcohol affects women differently than men, and “Alcohol Use and Sexual Assault,” which brings the questions of consent and how to reduce the risk of becoming a victim or predator into the conversation.
These programs are focused on educating students, if they drink, in how to drink responsibly and how to have just as much fun without binge drinking or drinking at all. Seton Hall provides a number of events for students to enjoy themselves without alcohol, such as SAB’s Free Flick Fridays, sporting events, or productions at the SOPAC.
Daniela Geraldo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.