Party at your own risk

For some U students, Spring Break is a time to relax, but others use the down time to party.

Freshman Matt Weilenmann plans to use the down time to party and drink “cheap beer-as much of it until I feel good.”

To keep a fun drinking time from turning into a tragedy, U experts encourage students not to binge drink, but to drink safely and to look for alternative activities.

“There are lots of things to do other than drink,” said Russell Short, a Prevention Specialist at the U’s Alcohol and Drug Education Center, who is encouraging students to seek activities that do not revolve around drinking.

“If your primary focus is to drink you’re probably going to drink too much,” he added.

Binge drinking is defined as more than five drinks per day for a man and more than four drinks a day for a woman.

“The reason they’ve set those standards is that it is the point we start to see impairment problems,” Short said.

Impairment includes anything that would cause personal injury, destruction of property or unwanted sexual contact.

Spring Break is often a prime time for binge drinking because it revolves around social activities.

“People want to please, they want to be part of things that people do,” said Robert Courtney, a clinical psychologist.

While peer pressure is one factor that leads students to binge drink, friends can also help their friends drink safely.

Courtney suggests that students be open with their peers and watch over them when they drink too much.

They should tell a friend, “I plan to drink-if you see me do this, that, or the other, step in,” he said. “If a friend you are drinking with is vomiting or has passed out, they should never be left alone.”

Signs that indicate a person should seek immediate medical attention include slow and shallow breathing, cold or clammy skin and a bluish hue to the lips, Short said.

He warned that one of the most common ways people die from drinking is by passing out and then choking on their own vomit.

However, that is not the only fatal result of binge drinking. If other problems are not addressed, eventually the person may die of alcohol poisoning.

“Alcohol is a sedative, and it sedates the function of the brain that keeps us alive,” Courtney said. “It has a poisoning effect. The problem is, you don’t know where that limit is with you.”

Many students have home remedies that they believe can help a drinker expand their drinking limit, or keep them from getting sick and having a bad hangover the next day.

“Drink a lot of water,” advised Freshman Jared Bodell.

Short said there is validity in Bodell’s advice.

“Part of what causes a hangover is dehydration, the other part is your body’s reaction to chemicals,” Short said.

Many experienced drinkers have a saying that helps them avoid sickness when drinking both hard liquor and beer: Beer before liquor, never been sicker, liquor before beer, you’re in the clear.

There may be little truth to this saying, Short said.

“Alcohol is all the same, it’s all ethanol. It all has the same chemical structure,” Short said. “The only difference [between drinks] would be the concentration of alcohol.”

Despite warnings from experts about drinking over Spring Break, students still intend to have a good time.

Mickey Hoelscher said he is going to Mexico, to drink “beer or Jager and [drive] through Vegas, and no matter what, to play poker.”

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Safe Drinking Tips

*No more then four drinks in an evening

*Make sure you have something to eat before you drink

*Alternate drinks: alcoholic and then non-alcoholic

*Try not to have more then one alcoholic drink per hour

*Know your limits

*If you’re mixing drinks be careful-know what kind of alcohol you are drinking

*Don’t drink and drive

*Stay away from drinking games-you’re probably going to drink too much

Source: Russel Short, Prevention Specialist at the Alcohol and

Drug Education Center