SIX WEEKS – By Richard J. Nance, MSW, MSHHA, Adjunct Instructor

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For freshmen, the first six weeks of school are the most hazardous to academic success, health and safety. You’re in college because you are smart, ambitious, have goals, and you know what you need to do to succeed. If this is the first time you’ve lived away from home without parental supervision, then there are some important things you should know.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than 1,800 college students die from alcohol-related injuries each year. Many of these deaths occur during the first six weeks of school and are freshmen related. Alcohol is a big part of the college experience in many places. During this critical first semester, this substance that many have been told to avoid will tempt students. So, what do you do?

It’s hard. Drinking in college is a romanticized rite of passage. It’s something that “lifts our spirits” to celebrate and “drowns our sorrows” to commiserate. This doesn’t have to be the case, which is certainly true at UVU.

The issues with alcohol are problems stemming from overindulging, binge drinking and intoxication. All of these can lead to other risky behaviors such as unprotected sex, date rape, driving under the influence and other drug use. Inexperience with alcohol can lead to alcohol poisoning, academic struggles and ultimately academic failure.

Universities are not naive. They understand that some students will drink. They hope and pray that if you do, you will do it safely. Here are some basics about the effects of drinking alcohol:

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC): Men of the same weight as women are affected differently. A 150-pound male who consumes one standard drink will raise his BAC to .029, but a female of the same weight will raise her BAC to .034. No matter what your gender or weight, alcohol metabolizes at the same rate – .015 BAC per hour. Simply put, if you go to bed at 2:00 a.m. with a BAC of .09, your BAC won’t be zero until 8:00 a.m. the next morning.

Affects at Different Levels: At a .04 BAC, lower inhibitions and minor impairment of judgment and memory are present. At a .06 BAC, impairment of motor skills and coordination are common. At a .13 BAC, major motor impairment, blurred vision and a loss of balance are typically present (the fun is over). At a .20 BAC, possible blackout and total mental confusion are typically present. At a .25 BAC, alcohol poisoning and loss of consciousness will most likely happen. Finally, at a .40 BAC, vomiting, onset of coma, slow, irregular breathing, low body temperature, bluish or pale skin and possible death from respiratory arrest are possibilities.

Alcohol poisoning and college students: Thousands of college students are taken to the emergency room each year for alcohol poisoning. This can lead to permanent brain damage or possibly death. A person showing any of these signs requires immediate medical attention. Don’t wait. Call 911 immediately if you suspect alcohol poisoning.

I am confident that everyone in the UVU family wants you to succeed. We want you to go forth and stand on the shoulders of your predecessors. We want your experience here to be memorable and rewarding, and we want to maintain a campus environment that ensures the maximum return on investment for your academic efforts. If you choose to drink, keep this information in mind and do so responsibly, legally, safely, and in moderation.

Proper attribution of sources for this piece: The NIAAA and publications from the Huffington Post, the Kennesaw State University Sentinel, University of Notre Dame Division of Student Affairs and KCOP television in Los Angeles.


Mr. Nance is an adjunct instructor at UVU and teaches SUDC 4710: Professional Development for Substance Use Disorder Counselors. He is also the Director of the Utah County Department of Drug and Alcohol Prevention and Treatment.