Dear First-Year: Have A Good Time, Don’t Be Stupid

Alcohol can be fun. Waking up clueless in a hospital isn’t.

It’s Friday night and you put on that fresh shirt you bought from the discount section of H&M, because the rest of your money is on lay-away for the mass drinking that will take place in a few hours.

Drinking causes more hospitalizations than heart attacks.

Maybe you forgot to eat, and haven’t had a sip of water since you brushed your teeth in the morning, but you sure-as-hell know that the almost-but-not-quite universal cost of a PBR is five dollars at any given bar.

This recent study shows a few thousand too many of us have been there, and taken it much further as well.

Alcohol hits us pretty damn hard

According to the study, there were over 77,000 hospitalizations directly caused by alcohol in Canada in the past year (an average of 212 per day).

To give you an idea of how bad that is, drinking causes more hospitalizations than heart attacks.

Tim Stockwell, Director of the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research of B.C. is quoted in the study saying, “These numbers are really just the tip of the iceberg.”

The remaining chunk of that iceberg is directly related to young Canadian adults. That’s right, us.

The study shows both young men and women between the ages of 10 and 19 are quantifiably affected by alcohol-related incidents.

Interestingly, for every 100,000 females, 63 are hospitalized because of the effects of alcohol, and 45 out of every 100,000 males are, too.

“Almost half of students surveyed admitted to binge drinking–aka having more than 5 drinks in an hour or two–in grades 10, 11, and 12.”

Jean Harvey, director for the Canadian Population Health Initiative says females are more affected at this age because: “[Girls] have higher mental and behavioural disorders and intentional self poisoning.”

That said, males in the next age group (ages 20 to 34) are more likely to be hospitalized due to alcohol than their female counterparts, so the situation does change as young people age.

We also start drinking pretty damn young

According to a 2016 study by Healthy Canadians on alcohol consumption in Canada, many start drinking before the age of 15 (and almost half of students surveyed admitted to binge drinking–aka having more than 5 drinks in an hour or two–in grades 10, 11, and 12).

That can be frightening when you consider some of the outcomes of binge drinking. A 2013 survey of over 34,000 students reported students:

. Doing something they later regretted (38.5%)
. Forgetting where they were or what they did (31.2%)
. Having unprotected sex (20.8%)
. Physically injuring themselves (19.9%)

Whatever the outcome may be, it makes those PBRs a little more costly than you once thought.

And there’s really no stopping us

Since 80 per cent of Canadians are drinkers, it’s likely that youth will find their way to a bottle every now and again.

Even Harvey understands that. “We can’t pretend people aren’t going to drink,” she says.

“It does cause health issues.”

“One of the things we want people to think about is that it is a big issue and it needs some attention,” Jean says while commenting on the purpose of this report. “People need to be thinking of [drinking] not just as something that we should be doing, and that it is culturally an okay thing to do, but that it does cause health issues.”

Those health issues are handled by many different institutions and organizations.

Carleton University is lucky enough to have their own volunteer group of emergency responders–the Carleton University Student Emergency Response Team (CUSERT).

A team comprised of professionally-trained students within the university, CUSERT members are trained at the Canadian Red Cross level of First Responder and deal with many emergency situations, including alcohol-related incidents.

“In the last semester, approximately 15% of our calls were of alcohol-related,” says Andrew Chen, Communications Executive for CUSERT. Those victims were sent to hospital 35% of the time.

But institutions are still trying to curb our drinking

One of the things CIHI looks at in the report are “policy pieces” and how they affect each province and municipality in Canada.

“We looked at things like minimum alcohol pricing,” says Harvey. “When you’re talking about youth, that probably has quite the influence.”

Pricing isn’t the only initiative put in place to reduce risky-drinking. Centre for Addictions Research B.C. outlines other economic approach strategies such as regulating advertising, sales and promotion of alcohol on campus.

There are also more grassroots strategies, such as alcohol awareness month events, theme weeks, game shows, alcohol-free activities, and orientation programs.

Here’s how we can take care of ourselves

For the people who drink, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has relatable and practical safe-drinking tips. They help students stay responsible, but still have a good time.

Here are some of those–in our own words–to keep in mind:

Know your limit – don’t be stupid
Eat food before and while you drink – don’t be stupid
Have water in-between drinks – don’t be stupid
Don’tmix alcohol with medicine and drugs – don’t be stupid
Think about your reputation, your safety, and the safety of others – don’t be stupid

“Know your personal limits,” says Chen. “The other thing is, when you’re drinking, be around people that you trust. The thing that we really hate to see is when people are abandoned by their friends.”

And just in case someone goes too far, CAMH has also outlined the signs of alcohol poisoning:

. Disorientation
. Slow and irregular breathing
. Slowed heart rate
. Blush or pale, clammy skin

If someone has passed out, CAMH recommends to turn them on their side and stay with them (to make sure they don’t choke on their own vomit). And don’t be afraid to take action if a friend looks to be in serious danger.

If you’re on campus, you can contact emergency services and have them help. Whether emergency services is equipped to directly aid the victim or not, they can contact the right people that will be of help.

If you’re out on the town, your best bet would be to call 911. That way, the victim will be in the best hands capable of taking care of the situation.

Have a good time, don’t be stupid.

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.
David Venn

David Venn

David Venn is a journalism student at Ryerson University, who has an affinity for music and Hawaiian shirts.