September 20, 2004
Up until recently, almost
everyone has been in denial.
"Until the 1990's,
deaths due to alcohol poisoning were largely ignored by the media.
Families who lost a child due to AOD (alcohol overdose) suffered
in silence. College campuses, where a great many of the deaths
occurred, sought to avoid adverse publicity. Death certificates
said 'cardiac arrest' or 'asphyxiation.' Medical examiners sometimes
chose to tell a grieving family, 'It was a freak accident,' rather
than 'Your son/daughter drank him/herself to death.' In 1994,
a Federal law was passed requiring colleges to publish all student
deaths. Finally, these tragic AOD stories are in newspapers and
on national television; stories like the one about a 16-year-old
cheerleader in Illinois who died after drinking a bottle of schnapps
on a friend's dare."
This denial has led to
generations of ignorance. Those choosing to try alcohol, as well
as their friends and family members, don't always realize how
severe the results of the experimentation might be--until it's
in the most difficult way, that alcohol can be a lethal drug.
Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to AOD [alcohol overdose].
Of the first 8 cases RID [Remove Intoxicated Drivers] discovered,
half were 16 years old or younger. At least half were first-time
drinkers and had never been drunk before. Five were put to bed
by friends or their own parents to 'sleep it off,' only to be
found dead in the morning. Their friends or parents didnt
know that if a person drinks too much alcohol quickly before falling
asleep, the alcohol will shut down breathing and heart functions
and kill a person within a few hours."
Ignorance of the fact
that alcohol is a poison that can kill in one binge has taken
another life. The recent death of a Colorado State University
(CSU) sophmore has made national headlines.
"Reports show someone
was keeping an eye on Spady and thought
she had just passed out Saturday night. The Poison Control Center
suggests that if someone passes out, someone watching them should
check and make sure they can wake up. If they don't respond to
a slap in the face, call 911."
While alcohol affects
the body more severely when it is mixed with other drugs, it can
be fatal all by itself.
Samantha Spady, 19, died from an alcohol overdose. Two newspapers
have reported she had a blood-alcohol level of 0.43 percent, but
coroner's officials have not confirmed that figure. ... In high
school, Spady was involved in the DARE program as well as being
cheerleading captain, senior class president, homecoming queen
and a member of the National Honor Society."
This event has been a
wake-up call for Spady's friends.
This event has also given CSU a wake-up call.
"Spady's death came
as a shock to many of her friends and peers, who just began their
fall semester. ... 'We must be
dedicated to take the necessary precautions so that a tragedy
like this will never happen again,' another student said, crying
during the vigil. ... Spady's former sorority sister at Chi Omega
huddled together and tried to sing a song in memory of her but
tears overtook them before they could finish. School flags will
fly at half staff for three days to remember Spady."
This is not how anyone
planned to start the new semester. While it touches the students
personally, even the administration is taking it seriously.
"Following the death
of a female student and two off-campus riots, Colorado State University
officials on Thursday said alcohol sales for most of its football
stadium would be suspended until at least Feb. 1. University President
Penley halted the sales at Hughes Stadium until a task force examining
alcohol issues among students releases its report, expected early
next year. Alcohol will still be served in premium club-level
seats. 'While there are no simple solutions to this issue here
or anywhere in the country, we are sincere in our desire to address
the issue of substance abuse head on,' Penley said."
The police are also taking
it seriously. Police Wednesday cited 19 men and women for providing
alcohol to minors. Two weeks earlier, off-campus parties erupted
in mayhem on two consecutive nights. Rioters overturned cars,
uprooted signs and threw eggs, rocks and bottles. Six people were
arrested; the university expelled seven students."
What about where you
live? In a letter to the campus community, the president of CSU
"As you all know,
Colorado State is not alone in dealing with the issue of alcohol
abuse. The 'Snapshot of Annual High-Risk Drinking Consequences,'
from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, provides
some jarring information:
* 1,400 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each
year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor
* 500,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are unintentionally
injured under the influence of alcohol.
* More than 600,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are
assaulted by another student who has been drinking.
In light of this reality, I urge you all to join me in talking
about the issue of alcohol abuse, to examine what you as an individual
might do to take responsibility for your actions, and the actions
of others, and to work together to deal with this pressing concern
on our campus and around the nation. The tragic news over the
weekend requires that we, as a community, examine our programs,
policies and culture, and do what is necessary to create the safest
learning environment possible, and I look forward to working with
all of you to achieve this goal.
Larry Edward Penley"
CSU has been given a
graphic example of the need to deal with alcohol as a serious
problem, but it is not just a serious problem for them. If you
drink, or if you know someone who does, then you need to know:
"The more you drink,
the more damage is done. You can get alcohol poisoning if you
drink too much. As the level of alcohol in your blood rises, the
chemicals in your body can cause vomiting or seizures, or you
may pass out."
"Signs and symptoms
of alcohol poisoning (ethanol overdose) include:
* Mental confusion
* Slow or irregular breathing
* Bluish skin color or paleness
"According to a
federal survey, 2.6 million teenagers don't know that a person
can die from an alcohol overdose. (Center for Substance Abuse
Prevention, 1996) What do students in your school know about alcohol
(At this site you can find
a short--6 question--quiz to help your students see how much they
really know about the
effects of alcohol.)
After seeing how much
they know (or don't know) about what alcohol can really do, students
can get excellent information on topics ranging from "Mechanisms
of alcohol poisoning" to "Bystanders (friends, parents,
have a responsibility" at this next website.
"The following information
literally saves lives. It could save a friend or maybe even you.
Teens pictured in this piece died from alcohol poisoning."
Questions of the Week:
CSU and other schools across the country have been rudely awakened
to the serious problems alcohol can cause. What will it take for
your community to "examine [your] programs, policies and
culture, and do what is necessary to create the safest learning
environment possible," as the CSU president is asking those
in his community to do? What will it take for you and your friends
to see binge drinking and alcohol poisoning as a threat to health
and safety--even as a threat to life? What about your school?
What about your community? Will it take a personal tragedy, or
can you learn from the mistakes of others and use these facts
to educate those you know and love--even to prevent more deaths?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.