April is Alcohol Awareness Month

How many people are aware that April is Alcohol Awareness Month? I bet many of you are pondering this new bit of information. The Great American Smoke-out is very well known, but the same cannot be said concerning Alcohol Awareness Month. Alcohol Awareness Month was established in 1987, to educate the public on alcoholism, alcohol issues and the effects that alcohol was having on the youth of our country.

Can you go a whole weekend without alcohol? I can, and I challenge you to do so. Does the thought of doing so panic you? If you find that this will be a hard goal to accomplish, or the thought of attempting this goal is painful; there is help for you here on campus. If you cannot even fathom the thought of not drinking for an entire weekend, this is a sign that alcohol has too much control over your life.

How about your roommate, partner, friend, or significant other? Is their drinking affecting your life? Are they keeping you up all night with their disruptive behaviors, inappropriate sexual behaviors, or general boundary violations; or are you losing sleep over worrying about them? This is a sign that alcohol has too much control over their life AND yours.

According to the Core Alcohol and Drug Survey that was completed in the spring of 2006, the majority of UIS students in the last year have not experienced hangovers, poor test grades, housing problems, legal problems or assault problems due to alcohol usage. This is a sign that our campus has a healthy respect for alcohol usage when you compare it to other campuses that are notorious for their drinking exploits and the ramifications that follow due to alcohol usage. This is a sign that drinking is not an active sport among most UIS students.

Binge drinking has been defined as consuming 5 or more drinks in a row per sitting for males and, for females, the number is 4. According to the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, 43% of college students report being a binge drinker. This question was asked in the Bi-annual Core Alcohol and Drug Survey of the entire student population during the spring 2006 semester. The majority of the students stated that they had not had five or more drinks per sitting in the last two weeks. This is a sign that most UIS students are not active binge drinkers.

The UIS community is very fortunate that we have a Substance Abuse Task Force that is active in bringing alcohol-free events to the student population. The goal of the Task Force is to provide education and prevention to the student body, as well as the campus. Ninety-one percent of the freshmen and 59.8% of the general student body are aware that there are alcohol and drug policies on campus. Eighty-nine percent of the freshmen and 64 % of the general student body are concerned about prevention of drug and alcohol abuse on campus. BUT, 82.1% of the freshman class and 93.8% of the general student body are NOT actively involved in alcohol and drug prevention on campus. To me, this is a sign typical of many campuses, “I am concerned, but I am too busy.”

Here is my challenge to you: if you are concerned about this campus in regard to alcohol and drug usage, join our Task Force. We usually meet on Thursday mornings in the Student Affairs Building. The Task Force would love to have more students on this committee to assist us in providing the prevention education and activities that you are seeking on this campus.

The Counseling Center provides alcohol education and counseling which is available at no charge. All assistance and information is confidential. Also, if you would like further information about joining the Task Force, please call (217) 206-7122. And again, I challenge you to go a weekend without drinking.

Valerie Gebhardt , MSW, CADC
AOD Prevention Coordinator.