Penn State Student's .427 BAC Illustrates Dangers of Excessive and Binge Drinking
It was about 8:15 p.m. when a passerby discovered a Penn State student unconscious on a sidewalk.
State College police say the 21-year-old male was found Sunday in the 700 block of North Atherton Street and transported to Mount Nittany Medical Center. His preliminary blood alcohol content was 0.427 percent.
The average BAC over the last three years for Penn State students seen at Mount Nittany Medical Center during State Patty's Day weekend, a student created event that promotes excessive drinking, is 0.282 percent, according to data from Mount Nittany Health.
In July, the most recent data available, the average BAC for Penn State students seen at Mount Nittany Medical Center was 0.264 percent.
In Pennsylvania, a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher is when officials consider a person to be intoxicated.
The incident Sunday draws attention to the dangers of excessive and binge drinking. Medical experts say such activity is no laughing matter.
Dr. Jeffrey Elias, who works in the emergency room at Mount Nittany Medical Center, says binge drinking -- consuming more than four or five drinks in a two-hour period -- can lead to alcohol poisoning, unintentional injuries like car crashes and drowning, heart disease, liver disease, neurological damage, sexual dysfunction, and intentional injuries like sexual assault and domestic violence.
Roughly 44 percent of college students in the United States binge drink, leading to blackouts, visits to hospital emergency departments, and a number of serious health-related concerns, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.
In women, excessive alcohol use can affect reproductive health by disrupting menstrual cycles, increasing risk of infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth and premature delivery, says Elias. Additionally, women who drink excessively are more likely to have unprotected sex and have multiple sex partners, leading to unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.
In men, Elias says binge drinking can also lead to impotence and infertility. He says alcohol consumption has also been linked to an increased risk in mouth, throat, liver, colon and esophagus cancer in men.
"Even if you only drink on occasion, you may still be considered a binge drinker if you drink alcohol very quickly, find yourself drinking just to get drunk, or regularly drink more than one or two drinks in a single session," says Elias.
In the United States, excessive alcohol consumption is responsible for nearly 90,000 deaths each year, says Elias.
"To help curb binge drinking, you should follow the U.S. Dietary Guidelines on moderate alcohol consumption, which recommends no more than one drink per day (for women) and no more than two drinks per day for men," says Elias. "It's important to talk with your doctor about your drinking behavior and request counseling if you drink in excess."
Penn State spokesperson Lisa Powers says Penn State, similar to other universities, continues to battle high-risk drinking among students and visitors.
"We have undertaken countless initiatives, most of which have unfortunately had only modest impact, but we continue to try to impart information about the critical need for everyone who is going to imbibe, to be responsible," Powers says. "When it comes to collegiate alcohol abuse, the statistics are staggering and heart-wrenching, and knowing that we share this problem with all other colleges and universities does not lessen Penn State's responsibility to try to address it."
Penn State offers an array of programming intended to deter irresponsible drinking, such as Alcohol Risk Management programs for sororities and fraternities, Stress Management programs that include an alcohol segment; Alcohol, Sex and Relationships, a program for first-year students; and Personalized Alcohol Use Screening and Education programs to increase students' knowledge about alcohol and prevent negative consequences.
Penn State also recently increased sanctions issued by the Office of Student Conduct, according to Powers. Now, all off-campus underage possession or consumption charges brought against university students are processed through the university's disciplinary system. Additionally, sanctions were adjusted to increase minimum penalties in most cases involving alcohol and consequences for re-offenders also increased.
Additionally, Powers says there has been an increase in enforcement by local and university police.