University of Virginia students recovering from alcohol or drug addiction participated in a ‘Hoos in Recovery Panel,’ discussion on Wednesday, and on Tuesday mental health advocate Ross Szabo was a special guest at an event that took place in the Newcomb Hall Ballroom, where the topic of his address featured an emphasis on the intersection between alcohol abuse and mental health.
One of his main themes – presented to many thousands of college students and others over the years – clarifies some of the common misunderstandings about both mental health and mental illness, as well as the tragedy that can ensue when young people are so intimidated by the prospect of seeking help, that they use alcohol and ‘street drugs’ like marijuana to ‘self-medicate,’ in order to try to restore a balance to their lives. Unfortunately, this can make matters far worse, even though it may seem in the short term, to be somewhat useful.
The University’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Team – which is advised by the The Gordie Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. This University-sponsored Center for Alcohol & Substance Education was created in order to “ evaluate and disseminate effective prevention programs for youth, and is in its 28th year. The Center’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Team (ADAPT) is an extension of its mission, and again this year is sponsoring a number of related activities for Substance Abuse Prevention Week, in an annual effort to drastically reduce the number of fourth-year students who mistakenly take part in an odd custom – which sprang forth in the 1980s, evidently, in response to a football team that left a lot to be desired – which features a very foolhardy activity some refer to as the “4th-year fifth,” which contemplates the consumption of one metric fifth of alcohol (roughly 750 mL, or 17 shots), on the day of the final UVa home football game.
A New York Times article describes a tragedy that took place at the University of Virginia 28 years ago:
ADAPT aims to promote safe drinking in place of the fourth-year fifth. Leslie Baltz, a fourth-year College student, died while participating in the fourth-year fifth in 1997. The week will come to a close with the Fourth-Year 5K Saturday at 8:00 a.m. in the Amphitheater. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Leslie Baltz
In his many lectures to Universities across the nation, Ross Szabo has used his own life experiences to shine some light on these very important issues, which he recognizes may be uncomfortable for some young folks to talk about, even among their close friends. As a sixteen-year-old he received a diagnoses of bipolar disorder, and when he used alcohol to ‘self-medicate’ it actually intensified the effects of his disease and led to a more complicated set of issues. He as gone on the record to point out that “seven out of ten people who abuse alcohol have a reoccurring mental health issue.”
ADAPT Peer Health Educators’ co-chair, Brittany Heck notes that this is a special day when good friends get together. “It’s such a fun atmosphere — your last home football game with all your friends — and you want to make sure you remember the game.”
Among the events this week for fourth-year students was a Bagel Brunch held on Monday in Pavilion VI to kick off the week, which included an opportunity to sign the “Remember the Game” pledge, which is an external means of supporting one another as a kind of “investment” not of time or of treasure, but of the kind of “high promise” that Jefferson spoke of, that is the sign of a good reason, and a strategy for a long life without the unintended consequences that follow someone who carelessly consumes an amount of alcohol so excessive that it causes fatalities – and figures significantly in later diagnoses of alcohol dependence.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are a number of reasons that students will do well to exercise self-control while they are still young. Both binge drinking and underage drinking activities have diminished among people 12 to 20 years old. The numbers with an asterisk ( * ) are statistically significant at the .05 level.:
A large majority of Americans either do not drink or drink infrequently.
Research has also shown that youth who use alcohol before age 15 are six times more likely to become alcohol dependent than adults who begin drinking at age 21. Other consequences of youth alcohol use include increased risky sexual behaviors, poor school performance, and increased risk of suicide and homicide. …
There is no safe level of alcohol use during pregnancy. Women who are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant should refrain from drinking alcohol. Several conditions, including Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, have been linked to alcohol use during pregnancy.
Women of child bearing age should also avoid binge drinking to reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy and potential exposure of a developing fetus to alcohol.