Federal funds target student consumption

Morgan Day

Attempting to drunkenly dodge the campus cops might be a hoot for some, but the crime of underage drinking is far more serious.

Fifty-three percent of people living in the United States report one or more of their close relatives has a drinking problem, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. What’s more, those who become dependent before age 25 are less likely to seek treatment than those who become dependent at age 30 or older.

“One of the things I hear many times is, ‘I’m glad my kid was drinking instead of doing drugs,'” said Jeff Langstaff, juvenile counselor at the Kent Police Department. “If we allow these kinds of attitudes to continue, people end up getting hurt – people end up dying.”

President George W. Bush signed the STOP (Sober Truth On Preventing) Underage Drinking Act into law at the end of last year in an attempt to bring what most members of Congress see as a national crisis to the forefront.

The act established a national media campaign focused on underage drinking, funds prevention programs in communities and requires the department of Health and Human Services to report annually on progress against underage drinking. It also calls for $5 million in grant funding to prevent alcohol abuse in colleges and universities.

Langstaff said the $5 million must be divided between each state, each county and then the multiple universities. By the time the money reaches Kent State, “it’s pretty thin,” he said.

High school students, on the other hand, may benefit from a program called the Saturday Family Workshop, offered by the Kent Police Department, in cooperation with local high schools.

“We found that providing education and early intervention was a much healthier and more effective way to deal with underage consumption,” Langstaff said.

Nearly 5,000 people under the age of 21 die each year as a result of underage drinking, according to the NIAAA. Also, 29 percent of high school seniors have engaged in heavy episodic, or binge, drinking within the past two weeks.

Melissa Greenfield, senior theater and communications major, said she thinks alcohol is less addicting than other drugs, such as marijuana, and has less severe consequences.

“Alcohol, I don’t see as that dangerous,” she said. “Unless you’re drinking every night, I don’t see it as too much of a problem.”

Langstaff said alcohol consumption usually starts in high school, but it’s not unusual for it to start as early as middle school. Also, it’s the impact alcohol has on an individual that usually determines if someone is dependent.

“It’s not quantity or frequency,” he said. “It’s what happens when someone does consume.”

David Wallace, an employee in Network Services, said young people usually don’t realize they have a problem until they’ve crossed the line.

He said the subject of underage drinking is particularly scary for him because he’s a parent. He said students tend to take things for granted and think there won’t be negative consequences when drinking is mixed with horseplay or driving.

“It’s all these young people that get hurt really bad,” he said.

Wallace used the example of the incident occurring Halloween weekend in which a Delta Upsilon fraternity member pushed a man into the path of a moving tow truck.

“You can’t tell me alcohol wasn’t involved there,” he said.

The best plan of action against underage drinking, he said, is to make sure students are prepared if they choose to drink.

“You can argue abstinence, but your best bet is to just be responsible,” Wallace said. “Once you’re at the party is not the time to decide if you’re going to drink or not. You need to decide before you walk out the door.”

Contact safety reporter Morgan Day at [email protected].