Michael A. Sawyers
CUMBERLAND — Young binge drinkers may not become dependent upon alcohol later in life, but taking in that amount of adult beverage in a short period of time can cause life-changing decisions to be made, according to Dr. Abishek Rizal, a psychiatrist with the Western Maryland Health System.
“You have the obvious — such as DUI, marital problems and things related to working,” Rizal said.
Getting arrested for driving under the influence has legal implications that only worsen if an accident takes place and involves injury or death to others.
Alcohol-based decisions can alter the wedded state via infidelity or domestic violence, experts say. And absenteeism or poor performance because of alcohol can lead to demotions or terminations at the workplace.
“The term ‘alcoholism’ isn’t used much now,” Rizal said. “Instead, we look at ‘alcohol abuse’ and ‘alcohol dependency.’”
Binge drinking or high-risk drinking falls into the abuse category and is defined on Frostburg State University’s website as consuming more than one or two drinks in an hour or more than four or five drinks during the course of an evening.
FSU has been recognized nationally for its effort to dissuade students from abusing alcohol. The school offers educational information about drinking at its “reality check” link at www.frostburg.edu.
“There seems to be a lot of binge drinking among college-age students,” Rizal said.
Though relatively new to Allegany County, Rizal worked as a physician in Boston and dealt with binge drinkers attending Boston College.
Usually, he said, those students were in immediate health trouble because of overdrinking and were seen first in the emergency department of a hospital.
In those kinds of situations, according to Rizal, immediate treatment deals with serious conditions such as abnormal blood pressure.
A new group, the Frostburg Community Coalition, has formed for the sole purpose of deterring binge drinking, according to Lyndsey Baker, coordinator.
One aspect of the coalition is training Frostburg bartenders to intervene when a customer is recognized as being intoxicated.
Baker said agreements have been signed with F Bar, Dante’s, Zen-Shi, Outback Lounge and Byrnes Store, and 20 to 25 servers or bartenders have received training.
“They learn to assess behavioral clues about the level of intoxication,” Baker said. “There are also intoxication rate factors such as determining if the customer is ordering food. Is the person male or female? Is it a large person or small person?”
Such factors determine the swiftness with which a person becomes impaired.
Once an intoxicated person is identified, servers have a number of options.
“They can start by telling the person that they are not legally allowed to sell them any more alcohol,” Baker said. “They can enlist the assistance of the person’s friend or friends who are not intoxicated.”
Of course, if a rowdy situation arises, law enforcement should be brought in, according to Baker.
“Public safety comes first,” she said.
Amy Davis manages the F Bar on Bowery Street.
“I think being part of the coalition has been an excellent tool to bridge the gap between the bar, the university and the community,” Davis said. “Getting help from outside sources to make the bar a safe place and better place to be is always appreciated. We want to attract year-round residents, as well as students, to our establishment and be sure they all feel welcome and safe.”
“You can’t overestimate the power of peer pressure when it comes to drinking by college-age students,” Rizal said.
Contact Michael A. Sawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Frostburg State University’s News and Media Services contributed to this story.