Sunday, January 29, 2006

More on College drinking by Lady Jan

I just want to explain that I was not talking about casual drinking in the earlier post, but the over-indulgent or binge drinking that causes alcohol poisoning and even death.

I like to thank everyone who posted a comment on the This has been going on long enough! post, I'm glad to see everyone's opintion on this important issue.

Here are some sad info, it explain that this is a wide spread issue:

Authorities said 19-year-old Samantha Spady died of alcohol poisoning Sept. 6 after consuming 30 to 40 beers and vodka drinks in 11 hours. Her body was found in a fraternity house at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

Her mother says it's still hard for her to believe this happened to her daughter — an honors student, former homecoming queen and cheerleader.

"That wasn't my daughter," said Patty Spady, of the heavy drinking that went on the night her daughter died.

"Samantha was the girl next door," she said. "She was anybody's friend. This could happen to anybody."

Trying to Prevent Similar Losses

That realization has led the Spadys to create a foundation to try to prevent other parents from suffering similar losses.

The Spadys say the SAM [Student Alcohol Management] Spady Foundation will develop peer-to-peer counseling and other services meant to reduce the risk of alcohol abuse.

Rick and Patty Spady said their daughter was partying with friends after a football game the night she died, but they said they do not yet have all of the information about what happened.

According to authorities, Samantha, a sophomore business major from Beatrice, Neb., had a blood-alcohol level of 0.436 when she died. In Colorado, a person with a blood-alcohol level about 0.08 percent is considered too intoxicated to drive.

Dean Beers, the Larimer County deputy coroner, said a blood-alcohol level of just 0.40 is considered potentially lethal. Beers said the young woman's death was ruled accidental and there was no sign of foul play.

Anatomy of alcohol poisoning is as scary as the effects

By Kathleen Sullivan
For The Collegian
"Just let him sleep it off."

You or someone you know may have spent that dreaded evening helping out a friend who had "a little too much to drink" that night. He had alcohol poisoning-- but the worst part is that after he passed out, there was a chance that he wouldn't wake up.

What is alcohol poisoning? There is no one-word answer. Linda LaSalle, Community Health Educator at University Health Services, defined alcohol poisoning as an overdose of alcohol in the body. "When you have alcohol poisoning, your liver has more alcohol in it than it can process in an efficient amount of time. Your organs that process food and other chemicals cannot handle the amount of toxins present in your body," she said. Alcohol poisoning is also a potentially life threatening condition that most college students ignore.

Someone who has alcohol poisoning usually has the following symptoms:

*Person is passed out/unconscious
*Skin is blue or purplish
*Breathing is reduced to eight or less breaths per minute
*Person is vomiting while awake or sleeping

What most students do not know is that once they have reached the stage where they are passed out, they no longer have control over their basic functions, such as breathing. LaSalle said, "If someone is undergoing these symptoms, a friend should dial 911 immediately and turn the victim on their side so that they do not potentially choke on their own vomit. Blood alcohol content (BAC) actually rises when a person is unconscious so the worst thing a friend could do is let the alcohol poisoned victim 'sleep it off' or pass out."

The buzz on booze

In the past three years, statistics indicate that more and more Penn State students are going to the ER for treatment of alcohol poisoning.

Of these students, the average age was 20 and the average BAC hovered around .22. Sixty-four percent were male and 36 percent were female.

Blood Alcohol Calculator

((Amount of alcohol consumed in ml)* percent by volume * .8 (specific gravity of alcohol) * number of drinks) / ___ kg (mass it is distributed in – body weight converted into kg))/ .5(females) or .6 (males) (water compartment) = BAC (g/l)

Clearance of alcohol is approximately .015% per hour

One shot (29 ml) * 40 percent by volume whisky in 30 minutes *.8 * 5 drinks = 46.4g 46.4g/50 kg (110 lb female)= .928 g/kg dose .928/.5 = 1.86g/l or .186 percent BAC
Clearance = 10 hours

Source: Byron Jones

LaSalle has found that students are hesitant to seek help. "Just from talking informally to students I have found that the majority of students would risk not going to the emergency room to avoid getting into trouble for under aged drinking," she said. "We try to emphasize that it is much more important to save someone's life than getting an underage drinking citation. Students shouldn't have to worry about that. The most important thing is making sure they are safe and okay."

Penn State police also agree that health and safety is most important. After the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration decreased recently from 1.0 to .08, Penn State police recognize students with alcohol poisoning as anyone with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher.

According to Penn State police supervisor Bill Moerschbacher a lowered legal BAC limit should increase awareness of alcohol poisoning so that students party smarter.

As of last week, forty-seven students have been sited for public drunkenness this semester. Police define public drunkenness as "a state that puts the person who is drunk in danger to themselves or others."

"We usually find them passed out or extremely disoriented. They don't necessarily go to the hospital but are sick enough that we have to release them to friends that will take care of them for the night," he said.

While it is much easier for police to notice a drunk driver, students with alcohol poisoning who are not driving usually have a significantly higher BAC. "Those with really high BACs are the ones who really can't control themselves and those are the ones we site for public drunkenness. Their BAC level could be as high as the 2.8 to 2.9 area," Moerschbacher said, "but it doesn't have to be that high. Their BAC can be below 2.0, it depends on the size of the person, what they last ate, their experience as a drinker and how fast they drank."

While many students claim that they are educated and know how much they can tolerate drinking in a given night, the number of students who exhibit alcohol poisoning hasn't dropped. "We've seen an increase in the number of DUIs and public drunkenness over the years. The number tends to be higher in the beginning of the year, but we would really like to see people partying smarter," Moerschbacher said.

For those who don't know how to control their consumption of alcohol, LaSalle recommends to stick to one drink per hour. "That is a reasonable amount for your body to process in the given amount of time," she said. The amount of alcohol each body can process however, is dependent on a variety of factors including gender, weight and food intake for that day.

Alcohol is also dangerous because it alters brain chemistry. In large quantities, alcohol poisoning can cause death directly by acting on brain areas that control consciousness, respiration and heart rate.

Initially, once alcohol is in the system it is distributed throughout the body. Once it reaches the brain, alcohol affects several different neurotransmitters. While all parts of the brain are affected by alcohol simultaneously, the cerebral cortex, the most sensitive part of the brain, is affected the most. Biobehavioral Health and Pharmacology professor Byron Jones added, "the primary inhibitory effects of alcohol work through gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), which is he major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. [Alcohol] also inhibits the actions of glutamate, which is the major excitatory neurotransmitter." The cerebral cortex slows down inhibition because alcohol releases inhibition through GABA and therefore people act more freely and lack more judgment than they normally would.

Both inhibitions take place in the cerebral cortex and affect basic frontal lobe functions such as thinking and judgment. Because these are the most sensitive parts of the brain, signs of alcohol taking effect usually start with changes and exaggerations in behavior.

"Other parts of the brain that lead us into motivational actions and behaviors are less affected by alcohol," Jones said. However, "as concentrations of alcohol increase, other parts of the brain become more affected," he said.

The brain stem, the most insensitive part of the brain and the most crucial system for survival, is the least subject to alcohol poisoning, but the damages that occur once it is affected are the most severe. A sign that the brain stem is affected is passing out.

"As alcohol concentration increases, the brain stem, [which] is responsible for maintaining heart rate, maintaining respiration and digestion, shuts down," Jones said. "And that's what kills people."

The most dangerous stage of alcohol poisoning takes place when the alcohol begins to affect the brain stem activity. "[This happens] because when you go to sleep or pass out your blood alcohol [concentration] rises much above--even four times as much as the legal limit--so you're getting severe depression of the brain stem area involved in respiration," Jones said. "It only takes four times as much alcohol as what initially starts to make you "happy" to start to depress the brain stem," he said.


GRAPHIC: Jeremy Drey/Collegian


No comments: