Drinking, detox and student health


Hard liquors like these are often preferred by college students, especially within greet life or sporting events

It is easy to say that drinking and the college lifestyle go hand-in-hand. Alcohol consumption is an integral part of social life for college age students across the country. Drinking is seen as a ritual within the higher education experience. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH) stated “harmful and underage college drinking are significant public health problems, and they exact an enormous toll on the intellectual and social lives on campuses across the United Sates.”

According to a national survey by the NIH (here) almost 60% of college students ages 18-22 drank alcohol in the past month, and almost two out of three students engaged in binge drinking (four-five drinks within two hours).

There are serious consequences involving harmful and underage college drinking. About 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including car crashes. Approximately 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking, and about 97,000 students report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault. 20% of students develop an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). One in four college students report academic consequences from drinking, including missing class, falling behind in class, doing poorly on exams papers. Other consequences include suicide attempts, health problems, injuries, unsafe sex, and driving under the influence of alcohol, as well as vandalism, property damage, and involvement with the police.

So what causes alcohol consumption to be so prominent here at the University of Denver, and within college campuses across the nation? Important factors that promote drinking (identified by the NIH) include unstructured time, the widespread availability of alcohol, inconsistent enforcement of underage drinking laws, and limited interactions with parents and other adults. Social pressures and the desire to fit in can also be attributed to alcohol use. Many bars located close to campuses, like DU, are very weak on enforcing the age limit which can also proliferate underage and unsafe drinking. Bars around DU that are known to let in underage students are the Border (now called Angel’s Landing) and the Crimson and Gold Tavern.

Denver students waiting to get into local bar, the Crimson and Gold Tavern

Denver students waiting to get into local bar, the Crimson and Gold Tavern

Campus Security stated,”the University of Denver strives to promote a healthy and safe educational. professional, and residential community where alcohol does not interfere with individual performance, personal success, public safety, or the integrity of the learning environment.” You can find University of Denver’s alcohol policies and procedures related to on campus events, student drinking, staff drinking and ect through this link. University funds may not be used to purchase alcohol, this includes student activity fees and grants. The University’s Conduct Policies prohibit students from engaging in alcohol abuse/misuse. This entails intoxication to the point of endangering health, the consumption of alcohol without consent, consumption, distribution and possession of alcohol for people under 21, possession of paraphernalia (such as beer bongs or funnels) and alcohol consumption during class.  DU does not have a dry campus, which means that alcohol is allowed on campus if it adheres to the alcohol policies and procedures.

What happens to students who abuse alcohol, are in danger or have alcohol poisoning? The Department of Campus Safety will contact trained medical personnel to begin a medical evaluation when a student demonstrates that they are not able to care for themselves, or if they have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 of above (the CO state limit). Experienced medial personal will then decide if the student can be realized, or if they need to be taken to a detoxification facility. The student is responsible for all costs related to his/her transport and care.

DU also has a medical amnesty policy. When students intentionally seek assistance from a University official or emergency service for themselves or others as a result of excessive alcohol consumption, the students involved will not be charged with an alcohol-related violation of the Honor Code, nor will an alcohol-related violation appear on their record.

The detoxification facility mentioned above is through Denver CARES Detox. Denver CARES is a 100-bed, non-medical, clinically managed treatment facility, whose goal is to provide a safe detoxification space, and to supply assessment, education, counseling, and residential treatment. Denver CARES is open 24/7, with a faculty of registered nurses, behavioral health technicians, addiction counselors, and licensed mental health clinicians. For more information on Denver CARES click here, and for historical background click here.

Does Denver CARES help students to be healthier with alcohol in reality? Travis Hoolian, a Resident Advisor at DU, stated “I think Detox is a strong determent against drinking extreme amounts and being stupid with alcohol consumption. Although I’m not sure if it is helpful overall. I do know that it keeps people from getting too drunk because they don’t want to be sent to Detox.” Peter Taggart a junior at DU who has been to Detox also said, “I believe that Detox is a good consequence to keep students somewhat in check, however I don’t think that it helped me to learn or make healthier decisions with alcohol in the long run. I was mostly angry that I was sent there in the first place, and I feel like there were no positive takeaways for me.” The general trend or opinion is that Detox is a strong deterrent against consuming too much alcohol, however there is still space for improvements within the system.

When asked how services related to student health and alcohol could improve, Travis said “We have made good improvements with the medical amnesty situation. I think there needs to be more leniency and a strike system. Currently students are reprimanded right away, or during the first occasion. We need more education, and to encourage students to drink in safe environments such as with family or friends. Students need to know their limits.”

The NIH also provided information involving ways for students to be safer with alcohol. This includes education and awareness programs, cognitive-behavioral skills based approaches, motivation and feedback-relates approaches and behavioral interventions by health professionals. These concepts could be used to improve student heath at DU, and also across the country.








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