Alcohol-related student hospitalizations have almost doubled from this time last year, with at least 28 so far this fall, University officials report. Up from 16 last year, the incidents are divided evenly between freshmen and upperclassmen, with a majority of female students reported.
GW officials attribute a rise in student hospitalizations for alcohol-related incidents to an expanded effort to increase alcohol awareness on campus and the necessity to report potentially dangerous situations.
“This year we have noticed that students are calling in for their friends (to be taken to the hospital),” said Brian Hamluk, director of the Center for Alcohol and other Drug Education. “When students are recognizing when their friends have had too much to drink, that’s a good thing.”
Students needing medical attention for alcohol consumption are automatically taken to the GW Hospital.
Hamluk has been working on an alcohol awareness campaign since he came to the University two and a half years ago. He said more students have reported friends’ severe intoxication to their community facilitators and Emerg this year.
Students taken to the hospital must be “visibly intoxicated,” Hamluk said. Extent of intoxication is determined by the person who initially reports the incident to medical personnel. A student must be either physically sick at the time of the call, show signs they will get sick in the future or pose a threat to themselves or those around them.
Hamluk also noted that everyone has a different standard when determining who requires hospitalization. The standards for hospitalizations have not changed this year, he said, only awareness.
Hamluk said students are usually transported to the hospital after a third party calls Emerg or University Police, often after students return to their residence halls.
“We’re not willing to wait for a serious incident to occur, such as a student death,” Hamluk said.
When students arrive at the hospital, they are forced to consume fluids and stay in the emergency room until they are “detoxed,” or the effects of the alcohol have worn off, Hamluk said.
He also said no students have been admitted to the hospital and none have required having their stomachs pumped.
Half of the hospitalizations involved freshmen. Hamluk said it is not uncommon for first-year students to have more difficulty with alcohol abuse.
He said alcohol consumption is not limited to any class or residence hall, because most students drink at bars and clubs off campus and get sick once they return to the residence halls.
Many students said that while they would not hesitate to bring friends to the hospital if they were obviously in danger, most of the time it is not necessary.
“You deal with people throwing up all the time,” sophomore Emily Mallozzi said. “I would try to take care of my friends first before getting them in trouble.”
GW arrests for alcohol-related violations also shot up this year, with 18 students arrested by the Metropolitan Police Department for underage possession, underage consumption or open containers. Last year at this time only eight students had been arrested.
“I don’t feel that students feel it is easier to drink off campus,” Hamluk said. “The laws are more strongly enforced in the District (than on campus).”
Many students attribute this figure to the District’s recent emphasis on cracking down on underage drinking.
“I feel like Metro police is out to prove something,” sophomore Meghan Repasky said. “I’ve already seen them more on campus this year than ever before, whereas UPD is doing more to help students. They will tell you when a party is out of hand, or to get back inside.”
“My CF last year was pretty cool,” said Repasky, who lived in Thurston Hall. “They are not out to bust us, they are our age.”
Students who are found in violation of GW policy for substance abuse are referred to Student Judicial Services. SJS then decides whether the case will be heard by a hearing board or dropped.
Corrective measures include group alcohol education seminars led by other students as well as multiple individual counseling sessions with a certified addiction expert, depending on the severity of the violation.
CADE’s campaign to crack down on underage drinking has included discussions at Colonial Inauguration with parents and students, last week’s National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week and posters around campus presenting facts about alcohol abuse.
“What I think helps is that we make (awareness activities) fun and not imposing,” said Jeremy Monosov, a CADE peer educator. “We present the information in a mature way.”
Activities for Awareness week included giving out “mocktails” and a brick wall set-up on campus, on which students wrote their negative and positive experiences with alcohol on different colored paper bricks in order to prove that there are more negative than positive experiences, Monosov said.
“People were really taken aback by (the wall),” he said. “We like to go for the shock value.”