Binge Drinking Epidemic

Claudia Mcintosh

Claudia Mcintosh

Maybe Scott Krueger of Orchard Park, N.Y., just wanted to fit in. Maybe he was already one of the most popular guys on the MIT campus in Massachusetts. In any case, what he was or could have been is irrelevant because he isn’t alive today.

On Friday, Sept. 26, 1997, Scott Krueger and the other fraternity pledges lined up against the wall and watched as their “big brothers” came into the room, laden with alcohol. Each pledge had already drank beer and Jack Daniels whiskey.

Scott’s big brother presented him with a bottle of Bacardi spiced rum and watched him drink it down. Soon after, Scott began to complain of nausea. His fraternity brothers carried him to his new room in the house. About 10 minutes later, Scott lost consciousness.

By the time the paramedics arrived, Scott was blue from having choked on his own vomit. He was immediately rushed to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston. There, he stayed in a coma for more than forty hours until he was pronounced dead on Monday, Sept. 29.

One night of heavy drinking took Scott’s life and changed others’ lives forever. Just because we don’t hear about alcohol poisoning very often, doesn’t mean that it never happens or that it is less tragic when it steals someone’s life.

Alcohol poisoning is often the result of binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as having more than five drinks in a row for men or having more than four drinks in a row for women. According to a Harvard survey, 44 percent of U.S. college students binge drink on a regular basis.

Josh Nelson, a 19-year-old freshman wildlife and fisheries science major from Yankton, points out that binge drinking also happened frequently in his high school.

“To tell you the truth, I think binge drinking happens more in high school (than in college) because people who got DUIs and MICs in high school were the most popular kids in school,” he says. “Here, nobody cares.”

Chris Vaughn, a 19-year-old freshman nursing major from Dallas, Texas, disagrees.

“Binge drinking probably happens more in college because people go to parties and drink to help them meet new people,” he says. “They think that drinking helps them fit in and seem cool.”

Either way, binge drinking is a potentially serious epidemic. Across the nation, college presidents rank the effects of binge drinking as their number one campus health concern.

People are starting to binge drink at younger ages. According to the Harvard study, if people are binge drinkers when they are in high school, they are three times more likely to be binge drinkers in college. But sometimes people who didn’t even drink in high school become binge drinkers.

“The people who didn’t drink in high school sometimes come to college and drink a lot to fit in with a new crowd,” says Hank Wonnenberg, a 20-year-old ag business junior from Gregory.

People have many different motivations for drinking too much. However, the majority of people have one thing in common-they don’t know how to help someone who gets alcohol poisoning. Of the people interviewed by the Juice, only one knew specifically what to do for a person suffering from alcohol poisoning.

Recognize the symptoms. These include vomiting while passed out, clammy pale skin, slow or irregular breathing (less than eight times per minute or with ten seconds or more between breaths), and drifting in and out of consciousness.

If you see someone suffering from alcohol poisoning, you should immediately call for help, but do not leave the person alone. While you wait for help to arrive, turn the victim on his or her side to reduce the risk of choking. If the victim is able to drink, give him water. Never let someone who has alcohol poisoning “sleep it off.” He or she could go into a coma, or even die.