Power hour’ not only way to turn 21

Ruth Brown

Ruth Brown

College students have developed new traditions for 21st birthdays; it is not just about cake and ice cream anymore.

A person may legally drink alcohol at the age of 21 in the United States, about the age of a junior in college. Twenty-first birthdays have, however, often resulted in large numbers of extreme intoxication and increased numbers of alcohol poisoning.

“My friends threw me a huge surprise party on my birthday, and then at midnight, we went to the bars,” said Ellie Jensen, a junior psychology major. “The first part of getting to the bars is just taking in the environment; it can be pretty fun.”

Many traditions relating to first-time drinkers have formed throughout the years. The so-called “power hour” is most common; the participant goes to the bar at midnight, when they legally turn 21, and stays until the bars close at 1:30 a.m.

Other popular activities include “golfing,” which is going to every major bar in town and taking one shot at each. Another tradition may include 21 shots in 21 minutes, or in some cases, just 21 drinks throughout the night.

“On my birthday, I had 21 drinks – 17 shots and 4 beers. My favorite shot was the ‘suck and blow’ [drinking a shot with your hands behind your back, using only your mouth to pick up the shot glass],” said Jamie Ries, a junior family and consumer sciences education major. “The only thing about going to the bars on your birthday is that so many people buy you shots, and then you can’t turn them down.”

Theme parties are becoming more common for 21st birthdays. One theme is a dress and tie party – girls wear dresses and guys wear ties. Others include color themes such as a pink party – everything and everyone is dressed in pink. Birthdays around Halloween are commonly costume parties.

For the ladies who go to the bars, a crown or pin is often worn stating that it is their birthday. “The only bad thing is that when people buy you shots, it’s just one after another, and before you know it, you’re completely drunk,” said Sarah Drey, a junior geography major. “It was a lot of fun, but I would only want to do once; I’m glad it’s over with.”

Too much drinking on a 21st birthday can have permanent consequences. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 1,400-college students ages 18-24 die annually from alcohol abuse. While most of those are from traffic accidents, about 300 are unintentional accidents, including alcohol poisoning.

Alcohol poisoning occurs when large amounts of alcohol are consumed in a short amount of time. MayoClinc.com explains, “When your body absorbs too much alcohol, it can directly impact your central nervous system, slowing your breathing, heart rate and gag reflex. This can lead to choking, coma and even death.”

Some symptoms of alcohol poisoning are confusion, vomiting, unconsciousness, seizures, pale or blue-tinged skin and low body temperature. If these signs occur, seek medical attention immediately.

“Twenty-first birthdays are supposed to be fun,” said Karl Steege, manager of Skinner’s Pub. “Ninety percent of the time it ends up being not fun because kids are so sick at the end of the night.”