No college student acts as a scholar 24/7, as much as we like to think. According to a 2014 nationwide survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Organization, almost 60 percent of college students had consumed alcohol in a given month. In college, many students gain freedom for the first time and are unrestrained in fulfilling their desires. Among those desires are partying and consuming alcohol.
Drinking can feel like a release from the pressures of academics. However, alcohol can also trigger the release of dopamine within the brain’s reward system, which determines habits. The resulting pleasure derived from the dopamine can shunt the consumer into a destructive habit loop by creating an association between happiness and alcohol.
Charles Duhigg, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of “The Power of Habit,” suggests finding a different routine that provides the same reward. For example, if your drinking is triggered by the need to relax, find a new activity that provides the same reward of relaxation, such as exercising or listening to music. Or, if you have a habit of getting plastered for entertainment, there’s always Netflix and chill.
It can also be difficult to distinguish between social interaction and peer pressure.
The first college party is always menacing. The drinks stridently clink together, the house is too crowded and the fraternity brothers cut in front of you in beer pong at least six times. For many students, it is stressful to leave friends at home and acclimate to a new environment, so drinking and partying can become a means of adjusting. Parties facilitate socializing, as they provide a relaxed atmosphere and ample opportunity to meet people.
However, it is important to know your limit before attending, as oftentimes the host will keep providing alcohol. To avoid this, the National Institute for Drug Abuse for Teens recommends keeping a bottle of a non-alcoholic beverage tucked away to not appear empty-handed when the host tries to offer more alcohol. Another method of prevention, suggested by UW Health, is to be assertive and validate your own opinions. Going into a party with a clear set of morals can withdraw you from others’ expectations.
When leaving the party, taking Uber or Lyft may be the best option. In New York State, violating the Zero Tolerance Law costs $225 and a six-month license suspension. That can buy you an Uber from Stony Brook to New York City and back!
It is imperative to understand how to recognize alcohol poisoning and who to contact for help. National Institute of Health identifies the primary symptoms of alcohol poisoning as confusion, vomiting, slow or irregular breathing, unconsciousness, low body temperature, pale skin and seizures. It is widely caused by binge drinking, in which a high quantity of alcohol is consumed over a short span of time.
If someone exhibits these symptoms, call 911 with any available information about the quantity and kind of alcohol consumed. After 911 is called, at least one party member should monitor them, especially because vomiting can block airways.
At Stony Brook, there is a Good Samaritan law that absolves “the student for whom assistance is sought and the bystander acting in good faith who discloses to Stony Brook officials.” If on campus, contact the university police at 333 on a campus phone, or 631-632-3333 on a cell phone.
Be safe, Seawolves!