Closing the Case: A Few Solutions to the Alcohol Abuse Problem at UMD. Blog Article #10

INTRODUCTION

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Alcohol abuse will most likely always be a problem at the University of Maryland, or any college for that matter. It is just simply part of the culture. Nonetheless, the problem can be diminished just like the teen smoking epidemic  was in the 1990’s. Very few young people smoke now compared to the number that did 10 or 20 years ago. If the right actions are taken, and the solutions I’ll discuss in this post are a good start, then the problem of alcohol abuse can definitely be resolved. The solutions I discuss involve the police department here at UMD because of the way I framed the problem.

SOLUTION 1

One problem that I believe is making the binge-drinking problem at UMD worse than it needs to be is policy confusion and student-police relations. Some young people drink because its an adventurous experience since its against the law. The problem stems from the fact that many students take this to the extreme. One solution to the problem is to stop sending mixed signals to college students. Can I drink? Do the police care? Am I going to get arrested? Go to jail? What is and isn’t okay? That’s a lot of questions. In an effort to reduce extreme drinking on campus, the University of Central Michigan police department visited students in their homes to talk honestly about drinking. They answered those questions for students. This dispelled myths about drinking for the students. Students, especially underage ones, were informed on what they could and could not do when it came to drinking. During the student interviews that I conducted, both interviewees, who are students here at UMD, agreed that this solution could work at this university.

SOLUTION 2

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One other potential solution to the problem, that you as students may be opposed to, is to decrease the accessibility of alcohol and decrease alcohol advertising. To use the analogy of smoking again, the use of cigarettes, especially among teens, decreased significantly after the tobacco advertising ban in the late ’90s. Decreasing advertising of alcohol around college campuses may help resolve the issue. Even though Keystone tastes like sadness, its hard to beat 150 beers for $70.

 

REFLECTION

Throughout the semester, I have been searching for problems resulting from extreme drinking, problems contributing to it, and potential solutions to help alleviate the problem. As the semester progressed, I made changes to what problem I was trying to solve and also altered my proposed strategy several times. I had to make changes as I realized that some of my earlier proposed solutions had already been implemented at UMD. Though what I have presented here barely scratches the surface as far as potential solutions go, it’s a move in the right direction.

 

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Alcohol Abuse: UMD Student Survey Results. Blog Article #8

INTRODUCTION

Since last weeks post, I created and administered a brief survey about alcohol abuse for my fellow University of Maryland students to take. No one likes taking surveys. People, especially students with crazy schedules, usually don’t have the time to take a survey. To combat this problem, I made my survey very straightforward and simple. It consisted of only four yes or no questions. Because of its simplicity, I achieved a response rate of about 30%. This response rate is about 5% higher than what the average normally is for an email survey. In total, over 150 students completed the survey. This blog post will discuss the survey results and how they will help me finish up my research on the subject of alcohol abuse at UMD.

SURVEY: WHAT DID STUDENTS SAY?

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Here’s a link to the survey I sent out to several UMD students. Feel free to take it if you have 30 seconds to spare. Actually, I bet you could do it in 15. Anyway, based on the survey, 63% of students agree that alcohol abuse is a problem on campus at UMD. Of those who agreed, 75% of them said that something needs to be done to resolve the problem. More specifically, they said “yes” to “do you think something needs to be done to help reduce the amount of alcohol abuse on campus?” Most of the students who didn’t think alcohol abuse was a problem clearly didn’t think the problem needs resolving. About 83% of students agreed that alcohol abuse decreases a student’s quality of life. Therefore, most students can agree that this is an important issue. It is extremely important to enjoy life to both the fullest extent and the highest quality possible – especially while you are young. Of course, as a college student, at least some drinking is normal and acceptable. It needs to done responsibly though so it does not cause more harm than good. The final survey question was phrased casually. It said “do you know someone who frequently ‘overdoes it’ when they drink?” This question was posed so I could get a sense of just how many students are acquainted with someone who may be having problems with alcohol abuse. About 60% of students said yes to this question. Note that the question used the word “frequently.” A lot of students have gone past their limits once. Alcohol abuse is when students do that several re-occurring times.

SUMMARY

Based on the student survey I sent out, alcohol abuse is most certainly a problem at the University of Maryland. Many students on campus recognize the problem exists and that something needs to be done about it. A lot of students know someone who may be dealing with alcohol abuse. The problem is widespread. Based on my findings, I will form some interview questions to get more in-depth feedback from a UMD student about the issue. This will be addressed in next week’s blog post.

Big thanks to everyone who took my survey! Feel free to hit me up with any comments or questions that you have.

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What Has UMD Done to Decrease Alcohol Abuse Among Students? Blog Article #7

INTRODUCTION

As pointed out in my first blog post, college students have a track record of overdoing it with alcohol. Things are no different at the University of Maryland. Fortunately, campus authorities have already taken several steps to alleviate the problem. In this post, I’m going to tell you about some of the solutions that have been implemented to help prevent and resolve alcohol abuse on campus.

ALCOHOL EDUCATION

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If you started at UMD as a freshman, you may remember this alcohol education program. called AlcoholEdu, that you had to complete during your first semester at the university. As a transfer student, I didn’t know about this until stumbling upon it as part of my research. Upon looking into the program, I expected it to be cheesy and preachy. Surprisingly, it is just the opposite. The online program tailors itself to each individual student based on things like drinking behaviors and level of awareness. The way the course is laid out changes based on how risky of a drinker you are. The learning interface is really good and not overly dull. The program is split into two parts so that you get reminded about what you learned as events like Homecoming and Halloween parties roll around. Overall, this program has both increased students knowledge and awareness about alcohol while also acting as a way to gather data to initiate and substantiate further research. Clearly though, educating incoming freshman about drinking has not fully resolved the alcohol abuse problem on campus.

HELP FOR TROUBLED STUDENTS

The University Health Center has this page, and others like it, available for students dealing with substance abuse. This source helps you determine if you, or someone you know, has problems with alcohol and what steps you can take to remediate the problem. Further links within this website make it easy to find out more if you need to. This was easy enough to find via a google search so it is definitely accessible to students. The University Health Center also has program called UMD weekends. You can sign up to get weekly emails about alcohol-free weekend events at UMD.

Breaking the Law

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FAILING POLICY

Though I understand that its a bit of a legal formality, this UMD web page about the campus Drug and Alcohol Abuse Policy is almost humorous. To quote one of the policies listed, “this policy prohibits the possession or use of alcohol by any student under the age of 21 or furnishing of alcohol to a person known to be under the age of 21.” I honestly laughed a little inside when I saw that. As a student at UMD, I know that this policy, among many others like it, is violated on a daily basis. Enforcing strict laws like this is difficult though. Therefore, either the policy itself or the implementation of it needs changing.

DISCUSSION

Educating students about drinking is only one solution to decreasing alcohol abuse at UMD. There is more that can be done. Fortunately for now, help is available for students who know, or at least think, that they have a problem. Though brute law enforcement certainly isn’t the answer, the policy on alcohol use at UMD is almost pointless as it is violated nearly 24/7 by students all over campus. What do you think? Would creating a new, better-enforceable policy be a solution to the problem?

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Drunken Brains. Blog Article #2

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Before associating specific problems with college drinking, I think it’s beneficial to get a general sense of what alcohol does to the brain.

THE COLLEGE STUDENT’S BRAIN: NOT QUITE THERE YET

The average undergraduate college student is between the ages of 18 and 22. While only a fraction of them are of legal age, this certainly does not prevent them from drinking. Regardless, the following analysis includes students of both legal and non-legal drinking ages. A BBC news article explains that neuroscience has shown that human brain development continues into an individual’s late 20s. This includes development of a person’s emotions, judgment, and self-image. None of this will be set in stone until their prefrontal cortex is fully developed. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health points out that underage drinking “Can cause alterations in the structure and function of the developing brain, which continues to mature into the mid- to late twenties, and may have consequences reaching far beyond adolescence.” Alcohol, or any substance for that matter, has a more profound affect on underdeveloped brains.

Source: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/magazine/winter09binge/

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DRINKING TOO MUCH

CNN cites that most students, about 70%, who participate in underage drinking binge-drink. Heavy exposure to alcohol can cause severe, irreversible brain damage including, but certainly not limited to, memory loss and decreased memory retention. At a young age, these effects are more profound since the brain is not fully developed. To give you an idea of the distribution of how college student assess their own drinking habits, check out the pie-chart breakdown from a Harvard News post. Since this is a self-assessment, keep in mind that there may be some bias in what the students said about themselves. This is why this data does not match up perfectly with the CNN report I talked about.

THE DRUNKEN BRAIN: WHY IS IT SO DIFFERENT?

Alcohol begins affecting the brain in noticeable ways once you reach between 0.04 and 0.08 blood alcohol content (BAC). When drunk, three primary parts of the brain are impacted: the amygdala (uhmig-duh-luh), frontal lobes, and the hippocampus. The amygdala regulates your comprehension of fear . The more you drink, the more this part of the brain is suppressed. You are less afraid of what the consequences of getting “wasted” will be after every drink you have. The frontal lobes in the brain regulate decision-making. Alcohol consumption temporarily degrades their functionality. This is why drunk people tend to make brash, illogical, and irresponsible decisions. The hippocampus is responsible for making memories in the brain. Alcohol consumption temporarily disrupts this function in the human brain.  Some students think they benefit from this because drinking may help them forget about their worries and responsibilities. Find out more here.

STUFF TO REMEMBER

  • Alcohol has a more severe affect on college students because their brains are still developing
  • More than two-thirds of students who consume alcohol binge-drink
  • Binge-drinking causes students to quickly and consistently get drunk
  • Above a BAC of 0.8, brain functionality is significantly impaired

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Is Drinking in College Really that Harmful? Blog Article #1

BACKGROUND

Hi, my name is Andrew Spangler. I am a Junior at the University of Maryland (UMD) majoring in Civil Engineering in the Clark School of Engineering. For my semester long technical writing project, I would like to explore and address a prominent on-campus problem. While the problem I chose to tackle exists on many college campuses, I have the ability to make the greatest strides in solving the issue by starting my investigation locally at UMD. One benefit of this is that I will be able to easily conduct primary research. In my weekly blog posts, I will provide different perspectives and analyses revolving around one central issue.

BUT WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?

About 80 percent of college students drink alcohol. If such a large portion of the student body drinks, how harmful can it really be? It depends on how much individual students consume. Alcohol is not the problem. Overuse and dependence on it is the primary concern. Over the course of this fall semester, I aim to thoroughly explore the many facets of this issue.

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Alcohol consumption and alcohol abuse are two very different things. The old saying “drink responsibly” has significant credibility to it. At many college campuses, including UMD, this advice is often blatantly ignored. Between getting caught up in drinking games, social peer pressure, and trying to relieve the stress from classes, it is easy to exceed your limits with alcohol. For some students, alcohol is extremely addicting and leads to dependence on it. The Diamondback student newspaper reports that “nearly one in five underage college students [at UMD] have alcohol problems.” Based on both personal observation and basic preliminary research, excessive alcohol consumption, also sometimes referred to as binge drinking, causes a decrease in students’ academic performance.

WHO CARES?

This on-campus problem affects nearly everyone. This includes, but is not limited to, students, parents, and faculty. In addition to potentially harming the reputation of UMD with their inadequate academic performance, binge drinking directly affects the

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health of the students themselves. Excessive drinking causes diabetes, liver disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, and can have a negative affect on the immune system. These serious health detriments are apparent to most people. Students affected by health issues caused by excessive drinking will likely maintain them into their adult lives. Both the University Health Center and the Counseling Center should be concerned about this problem at UMD.  Regardless of who the responsibility falls on, action needs to be taken.

CLOSING COMMENTS

So, is drinking in college really that harmful? Though it doesn’t have to be, alcohol use is often abused by students. This carries with it both academic and health-related problems.

Thanks for taking the time to give this a read. If you have any feedback or suggestions for future posts I make, don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments below. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

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