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Fall Alcohol Hospitalizations Nudged Up

Halloween, more students summoning help contributing factors

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During the fall 2014 semester, 112 BU students were transported to local hospitals for acute intoxication, an uptick University police say is partly attributable to the fact that more students are summoning help for drunken peers than in the past.

The previous fall saw 89 BU students sent to the hospital, according to Student Health Services. The higher number in this past fall included “high amounts of transports around Halloween,” which fell on a Friday, BU Police Department Captain Robert Molloy says, noting that weekend trick-or-treating typically involves students treating themselves to more alcohol.

Transports “leveled off as the semester came to a conclusion,” he says, adding that “we have been involved in bystander training, where students are urged to call the police for intoxicated students.” More transports may reflect students taking that initiative, according to Molloy.

The younger the class, the larger its percentage of hospitalized students last fall, with a plurality (42 percent) of the total being freshmen, data from Student Health Services show. Seniors made up just 6 percent of transports. (See accompanying chart above.) The data also show that 88 percent of transported students were US citizens and the remainder international students. A majority of transports, 57 percent, were women, who are affected by alcohol more rapidly than men because of physiological differences between the genders. Women students also outnumber males, and that could be a factor in the disparity.

Blood alcohol levels, collected for 70 of the transports, averaged .19, according to the data. Massachusetts law deems a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher in most cases as too drunk to drive.

Molloy credits stepped-up enforcement as another contributor to the surge in the number of people charged with alcohol and drug law violations last fall. That total, 57, compares to 15 in fall 2013. The increase followed a change, in January 2014, to an earlier-than-usual stationing of plainclothes officers around campus, as well as starting those patrols at earlier evening hours. He says the changes meant police “were able to detect underage students carrying alcohol” in greater numbers than before.

“We will review our activities for the previous year and review upcoming calendars” to brainstorm enforcement strategies in 2015, Molloy says. “We plan to do this for the spring semester when working with the Boston and Brookline police departments.…We need to not only partner with local police, but also rely on Residence Life, housing security assistants, and our students to help us in this effort to reduce excessive and underage consumption of alcohol.”

Students may contact the SHS Wellness and Health Education services if they or a friend have questions about alcohol or drug use.

9 Comments
Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

9 Comments on Fall Alcohol Hospitalizations Nudged Up

  • Nawal Ahmed on 01.29.2015 at 6:43 am

    I have noted many ads by alcohol companies on comm Ave. these ads are designed to lure people to drink more and to make alcohol seem cool and fashionable. Such ads should not be allowed around campus.

    • CHRIS PEEL on 01.29.2015 at 8:51 am

      I disagree wholeheartedly and personally think those adds provide both the relief of mind and motivation I need to get through the week.

      • John on 10.08.2015 at 10:19 am

        @Chris Peel: you are kidding, right?

    • fdsa on 01.29.2015 at 2:54 pm

      Universities and their students calling for censorship is almost as ironic as it is idiotic.

    • Student on 01.29.2015 at 5:09 pm

      It is true that there are many advertisements of that sort. It is equally true that the ads, while within the confines of BU’s “campus,” are on property that is not within the means of BU to control, meaning that the ads are at city bus stops, which are not owned by BU. We are in a city, not a utopia.

  • CAS student on 01.29.2015 at 10:35 am

    I read in a previous article interviewing one of the doctors that receives transports at the hospital that they only take a measure of BAC when they think it is necessary, and that in almost all cases they put the student in a bed and leave him/her in an empty to sleep it off.

    I appreciate that you have begun to clarify the number of observations factoring into the BAC average, but isn’t it still disingenuous to publish that average knowing that over 1/3 of transports are not tested at all because the doctor deems them to be clearly safe?

    For instance: if we assume those 42 students not tested all had a BAC right at the legal limit, .08, then your average for the whole group would drop down to around a .15 – which is the same as a 150b male having five and a half cocktails throughout the course of an hour. (http://www.erie.gov/stopdwi/bac_calculator.asp)
    Certainly this guys should not drive, but it would be absolutely absurd to suggest sending him to the hospital after consuming 5.5 drinks.

    I know BU today plays no role in the policies surrounding transporting students, I only ask that the statistics clearly designed to support those policies be more open and honest.

    • nathan on 01.29.2015 at 3:14 pm

      You made a good point UNTIL you chose to change the BAC of the measured group.

      It is critically important to point out that many transports were not tested. That points out a potential for unneeded transports.

      HOWEVER this does not reduce the average of those tested. The average of those tested, .19 demonstrates that that these people probably needed to be tested to evaluate risk. That is an average of 7.5 drinks per person tested.

      • CAS student on 02.03.2015 at 5:06 pm

        Definitely went a little overboard. I agree with your comment.

        I was only looking to point out how misleading it is to publish the average in the first place.

  • emma on 02.04.2015 at 5:27 pm

    So now BU’s conservative, tone-deaf, bureaucratic administration & president are callously trumpeting the fact that they are spending our tuition money on a witch-hunt to give college students future-ruining arrest records for doing the same damn thing that college students across the country, not to mention their own parents, did at the same age. I see John Silber is dead but his legacy lives on.

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