A REGION'S PROBLEM?
A 2003 federal survey of alcohol consumption by people age 12 and over found North Dakota to have the highest rate of binge alcohol use among the states, at 31.4 percent. Other states cited for high rates included Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin and Montana. Binge use is defined as the consumption of five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least one day in the past 30 days.
After losing Amanda, talk about drinking
- November 5, 2007 - 10:34 AM
The unnecessary, heartbreaking death of Amanda Jax on Tuesday in Mankato after drinking heavily on her 21st birthday provoked a lot of talk this week -- as it should have.
Law enforcement officials including Matt Westermayer of Mankato, whose colleagues responded to Jax's friends' call for help, voiced weary frustration about a binge drinking craze that police in college towns know too well. Cops and crackdowns and stiffer sentences by the courts can't seem to stop it, he lamented. They need society's help.
College administrators told of persistent, earnest efforts to discourage drinking and teach responsible alcohol use -- and acknowledged limited success. Ambulances are called even to "dry" campuses and "alcohol-free" dorms.
Adults of a certain age reminisced about that relatively brief time in much of the nation a few decades ago, when alcohol could be legally purchased at age 18. Then, "drinking age" was attained when most young people still lived under their parents' roofs, and sway. By the time they left home, drinking's right-of-passage thrill was gone.
Might today's young adult attitudes about alcohol be different, if the legal bar were lower? Might the dare of "21 shots for 21 years" be better understood as the invitation to suicide that it is? Some late teens said they think it would.
A lot of young people are not very smart about alcohol use, a college freshman told us. They don't know their limits. They don't realize that consuming too much too fast doesn't just bring on a buzz or dizziness or vomiting. Alcohol poisoning can kill.
They've heard a lot from the adults in their lives about abstaining from alcohol. They've been harangued about not driving while under its influence, the young man said. Parents have begged him and his friends to call for a ride home, anytime, rather than taking a chance behind the wheel after drinking.
After he watched an ambulance crew carry away a girl he knew earlier this year, he said, he wished he'd had another message dunned into him. If someone you know is breathing irregularly or passes out -- whether the reason appears to be too much drinking, or anything else -- call 911. Don't delay. Don't worry about getting him or her -- or yourself -- into trouble. Don't assume that "sleeping it off" is all that the situation requires.
Among the tragic elements of the Amanda Jax story is this: For the rest of their lives, the friends who celebrated her birthday with her that night will wrestle with guilty questions about whether they could have prevented her death. May they find some solace in knowing that their tragedy has Minnesotans of all ages doing the kind of talking that might spare others their pain.
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