You probably forgot all about the first test you had to pass for the University of Maryland and, surprisingly, it wasn’t one you stressed over or prepared for, but the content may be more pertinent to your life than any economics test.

For some of you alcohol.edu wasn’t too long ago, for others, it may seem like an eternity.

Maryland Discourse held “Party School Problems: Drinking, Health and Student Life at UMD” Sept. 29, with hosts Dr. Amelia Arria from the School of Public Health and Dr. David McBride, director of the university’s Health Center, to review some of the things in alcohol.edu and discuss drinking culture in general at the university.

McBride said alcohol education starts with alcohol.edu, and some evidence suggests it has a short-term effect of 6-8 weeks. While drinking is discussed in UNIV classes, presentations in other classrooms and posters hanging in the dorms, the topic is gradually ignored as students progress through their college careers.

Arria said drinking alcohol even minimally affects our physical and mental health, sometimes long-term. This is something we all know, yet continue to ignore when engaging in activities involving alcohol. She said due to our culture, especially in a college atmosphere, students will normalize extreme behavior–throwing up, blacking out and doing things they wouldn’t typically do while sober.

The panelists discussed how humans communicate through telling stories, and alcohol-related stories seem to be more interesting to tell people. “The more crazy things you say, the more you get attention,” McBride said, relating it to our current political climate.

Arria said while partying benefits the weekend or, perhaps, students’ social lives, it doesn’t lead to that dream job, healthy relationships or personal success.

“That immediate reward doesn’t translate to future, long-term reward in your life, it hijacks all your behaviors and attention,” she said.

With the discussion of drinking culture comes the inevitable topic of sexual assault on campus. McBride said while victims are never to blame, intoxicated or not, and perpetrators are not excused for their actions, he acknowledged the way alcohol is involved with sexual assault.

“We do know that perpetrators use alcohol as a way to make victims more susceptible to sexual assault. We know that both perpetrators and survivors judgement can be impaired with the use of alcohol.”

While people are often quick to oppose bringing up if a victim was intoxicated during their assault, Arria said, it is worse to ignore the subject at all because the stigma of intoxication is still there and victims will often internalize the blame and not report the assault at all.

“We want to acknowledge that an alcohol-related sexual assault is still a sexual assault.”

The panelists turned to the topic of mental health. People with anxiety or depression may turn to or rely on alcohol to cope with their illness, but alcohol also may inhibit negative effects like enraged behavior or thoughts of suicide. The panelists said psychiatrists will often ignore a patient’s use of alcohol in terms of his or her disorder. They urged the audience to recognize the distinction between engaging in alcohol for social reasons and someone who relies on alcohol for every social activity, to fall asleep or to cope with their illness.

They told students to research the signs of addiction and where the resources are on campus for help, whether for themselves or a friend.

As for lowering the drinking age to 18, both the panelists said “no way.” They agreed the “forbidden fruit” theory doesn’t relate to drinking culture because the availability of alcohol will just perpetuate binge-drinking. McBride said since the drinking age was raised to 21, less people have died from alcohol-related circumstances. Arria agreed, saying every year the onset is delayed, so are the problems people will have later.

The two doctors said there isn’t a way to change the mind of a constant and chronic binge-drinker who is fully immersed in partying and drinking. The discussion, rather, was to make people think about their drinking habits, as well as their friends’.

“If we could bring in the ‘middle-of-the-pack’ folks together, we are much more likely to shift the middle than the really problematic drinkers,” McBride said.

We all know that person that can handle going out every night while still managing a job and good grades. “We’d all like to be him,” Arria said, but the cards are stacked against you.”

Featured Photo Credit: Featured photo courtesy of Flickr user Jeremy Brooks.

Allie Melton is a junior journalism major and can be reached at allihiesmelton@yahoo.com.

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