Most of us are aware from our own experiences, that binge drinking tends to peak around college age. This trend is compounded by university campus cultures that promote and accept at-risk drinking behaviors as the “normal college experience.” As a Colgate student, and a volunteer EMT for SOMAC ambulance, my perspective on alcohol use in Hamilton is unique.
As a healthcare provider, the goal is to maintain our safety and the safety of our patients. Dealing with intoxicated patients is simply an aspect of the job, but can be quite challenging and frustrating as an individual can quickly change from being cheerful and cooperative, to being combative or upset. Alcohol use disrupts our decision-making abilities and motor control which can lead to an increased risk of injury and harm to the individual, to their peers, and to their surroundings.
As a student, our attitude about drinking centers around a “work-hard/play-hard” schedule, where the stresses of university life are balanced out by the “freedom” of living in a campus environment. Dorm-life, and by extension campus life, are socialization spheres, and the unique rural location of Hamilton intensifies this “social bubble.” The entirety of the student body lives within a small radius of one another which helps generate a close-knit community. Simultaneously, it can be problematic as it leads to misconceptions about “normal” drinking behaviors, and increases the incidence of heavy alcohol use.
As a first responder, I frequently deal with the harmful consequences of alcohol that many of my peers are rarely exposed to. I witness the immediate harm it causes to the individual at the time of alcohol poisoning and the related decisions that can harm others. I also witness the long-term harm in the form of end-stage liver disease, cancers, and brain damage.
What I can say to my student peers is that drinking habits are not as short-lived as our college years. Our decisions and our campus culture surrounding alcohol use affect our Hamilton community. We are peers to local teens, and guests in these neighborhoods. Our actions have very real repercussions that extend beyond our time at school. Driving “just a few blocks” on your night out is still driving intoxicated. Take care of yourselves, each other, and our community by promoting a responsible drinking culture, and do not be afraid to call for help.
For more information on reducing underage drinking and what you can do to promote a positive culture in our community, visit www.hamiltoncoalition.com.