Students and alcohol: Not a smart mix

Thursday, July 30, 2009 | 12:00 p.m. CDT; updated 12:42 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 30, 2009

Even though it’s illegal to drink under the age of 21, everyone knows it happens.

"I drank occasionally in my freshman year," said Evan Walton, 22. "It’s college culture.

Top five tips about safe drinking

  1. Don’t drink and drive. "The driver must be sober, not the least drunk one," said Kim Dude, director of the Wellness Resource Center. The designated driver in a group of two or more can get free non-alcoholic drinks at participating establishments under the CHEERS program. Check out for more information.
  2. Like most Mizzou students, keep your blood alcohol concentration at 0.05 or below. "Go to to calculate your BAC," she advised.
  3. Don’t drink during the week – it really does affect your grades.
  4. Watch out for your friends. "Come home with the same people you left with," Dude suggested. "Statistics show that a lot of crime is alcohol-related."
  5. Don’t feel pressured. "‘It’s perfectly legitimate to say you don’t want to drink," Dude said.  "You’re not a dork if you don’t."

For ideas on things to do instead of drinking, read the article on Mizzou After Dark or the section on cheap dates.

Key facts about alcohol

Alcohol goes from the stomach to the blood and then into the brain.

Only time will make someone sober – not coffee, fresh air, a cold shower or throwing up.

Drinking cancels out gains from exercise and causes weight gain – an average beer has 150 calories, which is equivalent to a hot dog.

Alcohol addiction can happen to anyone.

Effects of drinking depend on age, gender and body size, how much and how fast someone drinks, and how much food is in the stomach.

Alcohol can destroy the liver, cause permanent damage to the brain, nervous system and heart and lead to cancer, stroke, heart attacks and death.

Alcohol tolerance builds, meaning someone must drink more to get the same effect – this is a sign of alcohol dependence.

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Yet to some extent, heavy drinking among students might be more perception than reality.

In fact, 20 percent of MU students choose not to drink at all – that’s 6,000 college kids. The Spring 2009 Missouri College Health Behavior Survey found that most students consume zero to four drinks per week

Chemistry and education major Jennifer Ewan, 20, said she didn’t drink as a freshman.

"It was the values my parents gave me, and I was involved in other things like the running club," she said. "I went to parties and still managed to have fun without drinking."

For those who do drink, it’s not high on their priority lists. Director of the Wellness Resource Center Kim Dude said, "According to our scientifically sound surveys, drinking is fifth on the list of what university students do for fun, and seventh or eighth in terms of relieving stress."

MU is supposed to be a “dry campus," meaning alcohol is not permitted on its premises. There is zero tolerance for drinking in residence halls.

So what happens when you do get caught?

"We won’t call the cops the first time," said Tracy Pfeiffer, a junior working the desk at the College Avenue Hall.  "But they’ll confiscate the drinks, and you’ll go on res hall probation. You’ll be sent to alcohol safety classes and there’ll be some sort of punishment like writing an essay."

The truth is, though, MU is a damp campus.

"We accept that underage drinking does occur," Dude said. "But we put things into perspective and focus on drinking the safe way. Our hope is that if students do choose to drink, they keep their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at 0.05 or below."

The good news is that a majority of students drink in moderation.

"As a freshman, I did drink," said mechanical engineering student Shane Grotewiel, "but I kept it under control."

Most students don’t drink on Sunday to Thursday nights. Matthew Cavanagh, 22, admits that he drank more in his freshman year than he does now, but said he tried to be smart about it: "I kept it mostly to weekends, so it didn’t affect my grades."

Furthermore, the vast majority of students eat before drinking, and they alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

"We like to emphasize that most on campus who drink make healthy, smart and safe decisions," Dude said.

Illegal consumption, possession or distribution of alcohol by a minor is a misdemeanor. If convicted, there is a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in prison.

Fake IDs can result in a fine and a possible prison sentence. Think about the consequences – how far do you want to go just to have a “good time”?

Elliot Matson Kade, 21, recommended this: "Take it easy, figure out your own limits, and drink with people you trust."

"Don’t be stupid about it," said Courtney Skallerup, 20. "Be responsible and safe."

October also happens to be alcohol responsibility month.

"There are some big events this year," Dude said, "namely the Fall Welcome Resource Fair." The fair takes place the Friday before school starts at Memorial Union with free pizza, soda and T-shirts.


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