(410) 685-3993 | (410) 685-7878 | (800) 492-1964
Director, ext 3040
Carol P. Waldhauser
Assistant Director, ext 3041
THE LAP ZONE:
"On the Dangers of Binge Drinking"
By Carol P. Waldhauser
In stark contrast to the
medical professionals with their fast, purposeful actions in the ER room
of shock-trauma, a group of bewildered law students glanced silently at
each other. It was 2:00 a.m. as they waited to find out whether Chuck was
dead or alive. Anxious and remorseful, the law students replayed the
previous hours in their minds over and over again.
“It was not as if we were
drinking kamikazes,” Jim said. “We were just drinking draft beers.”
Brian elaborated. “The
party was meant to be a celebration and stress-reliever,” he said. “After
all, doesn’t every lawyer and law student work hard and play hard?”
Unfortunately, when Chuck
passed out he never woke up. Later, the doctor at shock trauma explained
that Chuck died from acute alcohol poisoning. Generally, the doctor said
that this is caused by drinking a huge quantity of alcohol in a very short
Binge drinking is drinking
a large quantity of alcohol in a short period of time, usually for the
purpose of getting drunk. It is further defined as consuming five or more
drinks during a drinking session for men, four or more for women. While a
person of any age can binge drink, it’s mostly a problem for young adults,
including minors. Recent studies have shown that in colleges across the
United States, up to 70 percent of the students are binge drinkers. The
average amount of binge drinkers on a college campus is 50 percent of men,
and 39 percent of women. In national surveys, 42 percent of college
students reported at least one occasion of binge drinking within the
previous two weeks. A frequent binge drinker is defined as a person who
has engaged in binge drinking three or more times within a two-week
The top reasons given for
binge drinking are drinking to have a good time, drinking to get drunk and
drinking to celebrate. Other reasons people binge drink include peer
pressure, boredom, stress and depression.
There are several risks
associated with binge drinking, including but not limited to the risk for
injuries, the risk of unplanned sexual activity and the risk of property
Furthermore, there is the
risk of alcohol poisoning. In large quantities, alcohol can kill.
Alcohol poisoning is one of
the most serious consequences of binge drinking. It can lead to brain
damage, lung infections, pneumonia, a coma or even death. Despite the
risks, however, many in our culture do not seem to get the message about
the harmfulness of binge drinking.
When a person consumes
alcohol, it enters the bloodstream very quickly. Within minutes, it
reaches the brain. Alcohol poisoning occurs when the level of alcohol in
the body is so high that it causes the collapse of the autonomic nervous
system. In other words, alcohol numbs brain cells, specifically
respiratory brain cells. The brain stops signaling the body to breathe,
and the individual ultimately suffocates and dies.
these horrible and sometimes tragic situations, people can help
themselves before they drink.
First, it helps to know the stages of intoxication:
including loss of control, impaired thinking and erratic behavior
||Confusion resulting from
such potential symptoms as double vision, disorientation, staggering
and anger (Note: If you experience any symptoms of this stage, stop
||Inability to walk or
stand, vomiting, loss of bladder control and/or passing out
||The final and most
serious stage; unconsciousness and at risk of death.
someone is heavily intoxicated:
||Call for assistance.
||If sleepy and listless,
roll person onto his/her side in order to prevent choking from
||If passed out, shake the
person gently or give a pinch to wake him/her up.
||If the person gives no
response but his/her breathing is otherwise normal, make sure to
constantly monitor breathing for any change in rhythm.
||If breathing is
irregular, the person appears unconscious or his/her skin has a bluish
hue, call an ambulance or 911 immediately.
||Never leave the person
alone, even for a minute. Medical problems may not show up for over an
hour. If you are in doubt, call for help.
Binge drinking is a public
health issue that affects each of us. Therefore, each of us can do
something to prevent it. Adults can set a good example by using alcohol in
moderation, preferably with meals and never in risky situations, such as
before operating a car or boat.
Similarly, students are a
first line of defense in preventing binge drinking. Just as they can
influence other students to use alcohol to excess, they can influence
friends not to use. Students of legal drinking age should follow the
federal government’s guidelines for low-risk alcohol use.
For men, the guidelines are
no more than two standard drinks per day (a standard drink is either 12
ounces of 3 percent alcohol-content beer, five ounces of 12 percent
alcohol-content or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits) and for women
no more than one standard drink per day. No one should drink if they are
pregnant, nursing or trying to conceive; driving or engaging in activities
that require attention, judgment or skill; taking medication that
interacts with alcohol; or recovering from alcohol or other drug
Also, schools and college
campuses can foster a climate that encourages personal responsibility,
positive peer influence and no use for underage people or responsible
drinking for those of age. They can do so by first acknowledging the right
of all students to learn in a safe environment and by allocating resources
for the prevention of excessive and underage alcohol use. All staff should
be trained to identify students who are drinking problematically and to
refer those students to appropriate resources for help.
To learn more about the
consequences of binge drinking and how to prevent its consequences in your
personal life, profession and/or family and community, contact Carol P.
Waldhauser at the MSBA Lawyer Assistance Program at (410) 685-7878, ext.
3041, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.