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ESL Encourages Responsible Use of Alcohol by MUSC Students

Nearly all MUSC students are age 21 or older—legally able to drink alcohol, and most students do drink occasionally. A growing minority of healthcare students misuse alcohol, and MUSC is not alone in this trend. Results from national studies show that 10-20% of healthcare students drink heavily and either have or are at risk to develop alcohol problems. MUSC is proactively addressing this issue by implementing a prevention and intervention plan for its students.

In 2009, Dr. Darlene Shaw, Associate Provost for Education and Student Life convened an Alcohol Advisory Group for this purpose. Chaired by Dr. Suzanne Thomas from the Charleston Alcohol Research Center, the group is comprised of students, faculty, and staff from all six MUSC colleges. The group was charged with the task of finding effective ways to promote responsible alcohol use and reduce problematic drinking among MUSC students. As a result of their efforts, a university-wide initiative has been implemented. One element of this initiative is that each college as well as some non-college programs (such as Interprofessional Education, Student Programs, and Public Safety) has agreed to adopt a month to host at least one activity to promote responsible use of alcohol or raise awareness about the issue of problematic drinking and campus resources that provide treatment.

These monthly alcohol education activities are underway. For example, in January, Interprofessional Education hosted its annual IP Day, and for the 2nd year students, the case presented for discussion was about a student with injuries due to alcohol misuse. Students from all training programs shared their unique perspectives about the case, including how they would address the problem if the student were a colleague in their profession.

In February, the College of Pharmacy hosted a presentation by pharmacy professionals in recovery from alcohol and other drug addiction. They shared their unique stories, and emphasized the nature of the “slippery slope” they experienced as they used alcohol to cope with the stress of school.

In March, the College of Health Professions hosted an event to train students about the concept of the standard drink. Developed by the Charleston Alcohol Research Center, a game called “Wheel of Pour-tune” was adopted for use at this event. The game is a hands-on, interactive demonstration that reveals how easy it is to overpour an alcoholic drink (and consequently drink more than one intends). A standard drink unit is the measurement of alcohol that allows us to accurately determine how many drinks we’ve had. For example, a standard drink of beer is 12 oz; wine is 5 oz; 80 proof liquor is 1.5 oz. If you pour a cocktail that contains 3 oz of liquor (which is surprisingly common), and you drink two of those, you’ve had four drinks (not two).

In addition, the College of Health Professions distributed blood alcohol estimator cards and provided information from local cab companies to address the dangers of drinking and driving. A brochure on responsible drinking was also distributed to students who stopped by.

Future alcohol education activities are planned for each month of the school year. They are thoughtfully designed to be interesting and practical, providing useful information about alcohol, how to avoid developing problems, and how to help yourself or your friend if problems occur. These events will be advertised in student broadcast messages and through the Catalyst and will be held at times that are convenient for students to attend.

Figure caption: College of Health Professions student Amanda Backas plays gameshow host to fellow students at the “Wheel of Pourtune,” a game designed to teach about standard alcohol drink units. Students who played the game also could register for a chance to win a $50 gift card (congratulations to the winner--Annemarie LeVeen, College of Nursing student).

November 21, 2012



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