Binge drinking leads to new campus efforts

by Rita Audlehelm

Back in the day if binge drinking was mentioned, it brought to mind pictures of alcoholics and the skid row element of society.

Mention binge drinking today and the picture brought to mind is that of young adults and college campuses.

Seldom does a week go by that the topic isn’t mentioned in the news…statistics, prevention efforts or the death of a young adult as a result of alcohol poisoning.

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year as a result of alcohol-related unintentional injuries. Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks in one sitting for men and four or more drinks in one sitting for women.

There are many possible consequences that can happen as the result of alcohol intake. Binge drinking brings with it the worst consequence: death by alcohol poisoning.

The increase in binge drinking prompted Simpson and many other colleges to evaluate current alcohol programming efforts. Simpson’s Balanced Life Committee took on the task of looking at programming efforts in the following categories: abstinence, social norming, legal and harm reduction.

Once current efforts were categorized, the group began to look at new programs to strengthen our messages to students.

Red Watch Band, a harm reduction program based on bystander intervention, was introduced at Simpson during Community Adviser training in August.

Red Watch Band was created by the mother of a Northwestern University student that died from alcohol poisoning in May 2008.

The mission of Red Watch Band is to provide students of the college community with the knowledge, awareness and skills to prevent toxic drinking deaths and to promote a student culture of kindness, responsibility, compassion and respect.

Red Watch Band training includes certification in Heartsaver CPR/AED and 90 minutes of interactive classroom work.

The curriculum includes: barriers to intervention, how to get help, college policies, toxic/binge drinking definition and recognition, the physiology of alcohol intake, blood alcohol content (BAC), factors that impact blood alcohol absorption, high risk behaviors, myths & facts and role working scenarios.

Student evaluations to date have been positive and reveal that students feel they have gained valuable information to help them recognize the signs of alcohol poisoning, know how to get help and to be aware of their own limits when drinking.

Students completing the training are awarded a certificate and a red watch to be worn as a visible sign of their commitment to prevent death by alcohol poisoning.

The goals of Red Watch Band are to ensure that all students are provided with accurate information about the dangers of alcohol use and to know when, where and how to get help when every second counts.

Red Watch Band training will be offered during spring semester by Student Development staff. Students interested in Red Watch Band training may enroll in EXPL 201 as part of their spring registration.

Red Watch Band is a 0 credit course bearing a CL designation.

For more information: contact Rita Audlehelm, RN, MS,

Director Student Health [email protected]

Rita is the director of Simpson’s health services and has been with the college for five years. In her free time she enjoys following her son’s Iowa football games, hunting and fishing.