Sunday, September 30, 2012

Clean Streets and Creative Consumption

September 30, 2012, 1:30 p.m.

Alcohol: Friend or Enema? At last, Less Drinking

I've never seen the neighborhood so spotless during a Hawkeyes' football game as it was yesterday.

And from Tennessee, historically an innovator in the manufacture of alcohol, comes now some truly innovative ways to consume it.

Together, those topics make up my morning's verbal meandering.

This blog is nothing if not an equal opportunity offender. I figure a democracy requires a little challenge to complacency, "comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable," and all that. On the other hand, when I think someone else is piling on a little unfairly, I'm quite prepared to come to the defense of my hometown, or anything, or anyone, else. See, e.g., "'We're Number One!' What's Your City's Ranking?".

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

Recently I've been a little tough on the football fans, University, City, and athletic program for the mess that's left behind in the residential neighborhoods following Hawkeye football games. "Football Trash Talk; Iowa City: Where Great Minds Drink Alike," Sept. 11; "Anheuser-Busch, UI & Hawks a Win-Win-Win", Sept. 17.

This is not to say that the amount of trash has become insignificant. Following one game 13,280 pounds of trash was collected; and of course that does not count what is outside the area from which it's collected, the cans picked up for their 5-cent value when recycled by unsupervised volunteers, or what the neighbors dispose of. Tara Bannow, "Keeping gameday trash out of the landfill; Volunteers clean and sort trash at Kinnick on Sundays," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 29, 2012, p. A3 ("At the Sept. 8 game against Iowa State University, the team [of recyclers] collected 4,700 pounds of recyclable materials, 620 pounds of food waste for compost and 7,960 pounds of trash.") And of course there's less incentive to stand outside when it's cold, and try to get falling down drunk by 10:30 in the morning when the game's at 11:00, than when there's balmy warm weather prior to a late afternoon and evening game.

But compare this picture with the one above. As far down the street as you can see, the lawns are cleaned of trash. Such trash as there was is now bagged, tied, neatly piled, and ready to be collected. Some of this is due to more respectful fans. But the fact remains that real efforts have gone into organizing volunteers, and those modestly paid, to distribute trash containers prior to the game and pick them up afterwards, to pick up the trash, and as an added societal benefit, to sort and recycle, and compost, that which can be used. Stacey Murray, "Iowa City Sees Spike in Gameday Trash," The Daily Iowan, September 26, 2012 ("Outside Kinnick Stadium, Melrose Avenue is taking a hit. With four-consecutive home games this month, the Extend the Dream Foundation noticed a 15 percent increase in trash levels on Melrose Avenue and Melrose Court. . . . [Foundation Director Tom] Walz’s foundation works in cooperation with the University of Iowa’s Office of Sustainability, Iowa City, and the Hawkeye Athletics Department in a partnership to clean up Melrose Avenue during and after each home game.").

So give credit where it is due, I say. Many thanks to UI President Sally Mason, Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek, UI Athletic Director Gary Barta, Extend the Dream Foundation Director Tom Walz, and their casts of thousands (along with whoever else has contributed), that have recognized a problem, thought it through to a potential solution, and then implemented it. It is an example of common sense, responsibility and civil collaboration that is not often seen from administrators.

Alcohol: Friend or Enema? At last, less drinking

We've had a little problem with alcohol-related abuses at a UI fraternity. "Alcohol Abuse and Sexual Assault, or 'Fine Public Service'?" Sept. 26 ("Police began investigating an alleged sexual assault at a UI fraternity . . .. Residents had been charged with alcohol-related offenses earlier this summer. . . . [T]he fraternity's national headquarters suspended the group and expelled its current members, citing "hazing . . .." That day the UI mentioned 'illegal alcohol consumption' . . ..").

In fairness, students' alcohol abuse is a problem in a great many colleges around the country (and the world). It's not limited to Iowa City. Actually, the University of Iowa's numbers have been improving in some ways, although students still binge drink at something like twice the national average. See, e.g.,: "UI Administrators 'Shocked' By School's Beer Ads," August 30, 2012; "'We're # 2!' . . . in Campus Drunks," August 21, 2012; "A Busch in the Hand is Worth . . .," June 16, 2012. The Daily Iowan's Monday morning [Oct. 1] "Police Blotter" reported 50 arrests -- a decline from prior weeks. (Most, but not all, are of college-age individuals for alcohol-related offenses.) On the other hand, arrests and sexual assaults are up: "The report shows arrests and judicial referrals for liquor-law violations fluctuated between 2009 and 2011, with a total of 127 arrests and 537 judicial referrals in 2009 . . . and 497 arrests and 777 referrals in 2011 — an overall increase in both arrests and referrals. . . . The report also showed a rise in the number of forcible sex offenses on campus, with 11 total offenses in 2011, compared to the 7 total offenses reported in 2010." Matt Starns, "Clery Report shows rise in alcohol-related crime, sex offenses at UI," The Daily Iowan, October 2.

But the news out of Tennessee is especially noteworthy.

For some reason I'm reminded of the story -- whether true or apocryphal is irrelevant for this purpose -- of a father's reaction to his teenage son's drunk driving, and an accident in which one passenger was killed and two were severely injured. When informed that his son had tested over the legal limit, the father responded, "Well, thank God he's not using drugs."

Alcohol IS a hard drug. Indeed, based on the amount of alcohol-related harm it does, alcohol is by any measure our nation's number one hard drug. The National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence reports that 23 million Americans over the age of 12 are addicted to alcohol and other drugs; problems that touch 24% of American families. "Overview," National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence." Add the workplace or student colleagues, neighbors, more distant family, and others and we're talking about tens of millions more Americans than those affected by other drugs.

"Out of millions who hold full time employment in the United States, close to fifteen million are heavy drinkers of alcohol, exacting a high cost on work organizations . . . , premature death/fatal accidents, injuries/accident rates, absenteeism/extra sick leave, loss of production, tardiness/sleeping on the job, theft, poor decision making, loss of efficiency, lower morale of co-workers, increased likelihood of having trouble with co-workers . . ., higher turnover, training of new employees, [and] disciplinary procedures." "Alcohol and the Workplace," National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence." This adverse economic impact runs into the billions of dollars.

Alcohol's grossly disproportionate impact (compared with other drugs) is seen throughout our society. Look it up; I'm not going to provide all the links here. Alcohol is involved in roughly half, give or take, of all crimes, and its related involvement as a challenge for roughly half of the prison population. It's adverse, irreversible physical and health effects are greater than those for heroin.

The impact on students includes everything from the consequences of physical violence, drunk driving, unwanted pregnancies, hospital admissions for near toxic levels of alcohol, through dropouts, to death (some 1800 alcohol-related deaths of college students each year).

Notwithstanding these risks and consequences, there are students who continue to drink alcohol, not one (or two) glasses of beer or wine over a meal, but to get drunk, up to and beyond passing out -- "binge drinking." This behavior clearly relates to using alcohol as a drug rather than socializing.

As you may know, there has been an uptick in national awareness of our need for greater emphasis on "Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math" -- which goes by the acronym, "STEM."

And it now appears this student interest in scientific research, this intellectual curiosity, has penetrated the minds of the residents of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at the University of Tennessee.

And that's not all it's penetrated.

Serious students don't mind an occasional party, but they have to have good time management skills as well. Long social evenings with alcohol, in benefit-cost terms, take entirely too much time away from the studying students would prefer to be doing.

Binge drinking, by contrast, is much more efficient. "The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent or above. This typically happens when men consume 5 or more drinks, and when women consume 4 or more drinks, in about 2 hours." "Alcohol and Public Health Fact Sheets," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cutting the time consumed by a non-studying activity from six or eight hours down to two is obviously appealing.

But as these young people are discovering, science is constantly evolving and expanding. I recently calculated that the terabyte external hard drive I just bought cost me, in dollars per unit of storage space, roughly 1/10,000 the cost of the first one I purchased over 30 years ago.

How might students cut down on the time consumed by binge drinking? That was the challenge confronted by this Tennessee fraternity's members.

After considerable lab and library research they settled upon an hypothesis involving rates of absorption. They had already amassed significant quantities of anecdotal evidence that eating before drinking reduced the sensation of drunkenness -- as well as the desired onset of the lack of any sensation whatsoever.

"How else might alcohol be injected into the human body?" they asked. They considered the use of a syringe, injecting alcohol directly into the blood, but decided the risks of sharing needles -- almost compulsory among blood brothers -- outweighed the possible advantages of this approach.

Probing for other orifices into which alcohol might be injected they ultimately came to the realization they had been sitting on it all along. And so was born the "alcohol enema hypothesis."

The results were staggering -- but also frightening. Erik Schelzig, "Univ. of Tennessee fraternity's alcohol enema has deadly risk," Associated Press/Decatur Daily [Knoxville, Tennessee], September 29, 2012. As Mr. Schelzig explains:
Before an unruly Tennessee party ended with a student hospitalized for a dangerously high blood alcohol level, most people had probably never heard of alcohol enemas.

Thanks to the drunken exploits of a fraternity at the University of Tennessee, the bizarre way of getting drunk is giving parents, administrators and health care workers a new fear.

When Alexander "Xander" Broughton, 20, was delivered to the hospital after midnight on Sept. 22, his blood alcohol level was measured at 0.448 percent — nearly six times the intoxication that defines drunken driving in the state. Injuries to his rectum led hospital officials to fear he had been sodomized. . . .

Police documents show that when an officer interviewed a fellow fraternity member about what happened, the student said the injuries had been caused by an alcohol enema. . . .

Broughton . . . denied having an alcohol enema. Police concluded otherwise from evidence they found at the frat house, including boxes of Franzia Sunset Blush wine.

"He also had no recollection of losing control of his bowels and defecating on himself," according to a university police report that includes photos of the mess left behind in the fraternity house after the party. . . .

Alcohol enemas have been the punch lines of YouTube videos . . .. But Corey Slovis, chairman of department of emergency medicine and Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said actually going through with the deed can have severe consequences.

"It's something that offers no advantages, while at the same time risking someone's life," he said.

The procedure bypasses the stomach, accelerating the absorption rate, Slovis said. Pouring the alcohol through a funnel can increase the amount of alcohol consumed because it's hard to gauge how much is going in. . . .

The effects have been fatal in at least one case. An autopsy performed after the death of a . . . Texas man in 2004 showed he had been given an enema with enough sherry to have a blood alcohol level of 0.47 percent. . . .

Gordon Ray, a senior from Morristown, said the details of the case caught him off guard, but not the fact that fraternity members would be overdoing it with alcohol.

"It is definitely over the top," said Ray. "But it doesn't surprise me, I don't guess." . . .

James E. Lange, who coordinates alcohol and drug abuse prevention strategies at San Diego State University, said alcohol enemas aren't a common occurrence on campuses, though normal consumption still contributes to hundreds of student deaths annually. . . .

And many of those can be attributed to reckless attitudes about the consequences of heavy drinking, he said.

"It's not unusual to hear that students are drinking to get drunk," he said. . . .
All I can say is, "Thank goodness those Tennessee boys weren't drinking."

# # #

1 comment:

Nick said...

Advertising Notice

Notice Regarding Advertising: This blog runs an open comments section. All comments related to blog entries have (so far) remained posted, regardless of how critical. Although I would prefer that those posting comments identify themselves, anonymous comments are also accepted.

The only limitation is that advertising posing as comments will be removed. That is why one or more of the comments posted on this blog entry, containing links to unrelated matter, have been deleted.
-- Nick