Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Everything a Teenager Should Know about Purim Drinking


Being that Purim is around the corner, I decided to write about what bothers me every year around this time. That is: the way anti-drinking campaigns are run.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one for free open drinking on Purim. I’m not into kids (or adults) getting carried away on stretchers or lifted and carried off of people’s couches and front lawns. And I’m definitely not into people destroying their Purim by drinking too much and not remembering anything (besides for the side effects). However, I am against the way the yeshiva world tries to stop it.

Every year we all see the posters from Hatzaloh – Don’t get carried away this Purim. Every year we see the Kol Korai in the Yated, and every year we see the letter to the editor in the Hamodia from some innocent 17 year old who wanted to have an awesome time the previous year and instead ended up in the hospital who writes, “it’s mamesh a nes nigleh that I am alive to write this letter today.” We see letter after letter, sign after sign and fact after fact of the dangers of drinking on Purim. The facts are enough to scare anyone, and they do, except for one group of people – teenagers.

You see, the Just Say No style campaigns that (just about) every yeshiva, shul, community and school use have very little effect on what and how much teenagers want to drink on Purim. It may affect how easy it is to get the alcohol, as adults are more cautious about dispensing alcohol to minors, but it has a much smaller affect on the group that needs it the most. The reason this approach does not work on teenagers is that most people who get drunk on Purim don’t end up in the hospital or have their stomachs pumped, and their friends certainly know it. To quote the authors of Buzzed – The Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy, “when horror stories are used as the principal tools in drug education, people soon recognize that such stories do not represent the whole truth. The educator then loses credibility.” Basically, when teenagers see their friends and a lot of other people get drunk on Purim without crazy horror stories, they start ignoring all the people telling them not to drink because they might end up in the hospital. (Ironically, while typing this post, I got an email from a Shul near me telling everyone that Rav Shmuel Kaminetzky reportedly said that getting drunk on Purim is an Aveira. While it may be true, that won’t stop most people.)

Unfortunately, the ones who ignore the message are the key audience that we need to reach to help prevent the true dangers of drinking on Purim. To do this, we must switch Just Say No to Just Say Know. When a person knows the facts regarding how alcohol will affect his (or her) body, that knowledge can lead to safer drinking and help avoid excess. Will it get teenagers to stop drinking on Purim? Absolutely not. But it may help reduce the incidents of hospital visits.

So, with that I present – Everything a Teenager Should Know about Purim Drinking.

First off, you should know that every person’s body will react differently to alcohol. Body size, history of drinking and gender all play a major role in how the alcohol will affect your body. One thing that is important to know is that even if having a higher tolerance means you may not feel the same effects of alcohol on your body as other people who drank the same amount, you still have the same amount of alcohol in your blood and therefore the effects are still there whether you feel them or not.

Next, let’s talk about BAC – Blood Alcohol Content (or Concentration). BAC is the amount of alcohol present in the blood after consuming alcohol. Below you will see how your body reacts to different level BAC’s. After we will discuss how alcohol affects your BAC. Remember: The effects of alcohol intoxication are greatly influenced by individual variations among users. Some users may become intoxicated at a much lower Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level than is shown.





0.02-0.03 BAC: No loss of coordination, slight euphoria and loss of shyness. Depressant effects are not apparent. You might feel mildly relaxed and maybe a little lightheaded.



0.04-0.06 BAC: There is a feeling of well-being, relaxation, lower inhibitions, and a sensation of warmth along with euphoria. There will be some minor impairment of reasoning and memory, and lowering of caution. Your behavior may become exaggerated and emotions intensified (Good emotions are better, bad emotions are worse)



0.07-0.09 BAC: Slight impairment of balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing. Euphoria. Judgment and self-control are reduced, and caution, reason and memory are impaired, .08 is legally impaired and it is illegal to drive at this level. You will probably believe that you are functioning better than you really are.



0.10-0.125 BAC: Significant impairment of motor coordination and loss of good judgment. Speech may be slurred; balance, vision, reaction time and hearing will be impaired. Euphoria.



0.13-0.15 BAC: Gross motor impairment and lack of physical control. Blurred vision and major loss of balance. Euphoria is reduced and dysphoria (anxiety, restlessness) is beginning to appear. Judgment and perception are severely impaired.



0.16-0.19 BAC: Dysphoria predominates, nausea may appear. The drinker has the appearance of a "sloppy drunk."


0.20 BAC: Felling dazed, confused or otherwise disoriented. May need help to stand or walk. If you injure yourself you may not feel the pain. Some people experience nausea and vomiting at this level. The gag reflex is impaired and you can choke if you do vomit. Blackouts are likely at this level so you may not remember what has happened.



0.25 BAC: All mental, physical and sensory functions are severely impaired. Increased risk of asphyxiation from choking on vomit and of seriously injuring yourself by falls or other accidents.



0.30 BAC: STUPOR. You have little comprehension of where you are. You may pass out suddenly and be difficult to awaken.


0.35 BAC: Coma is possible. This is the level of surgical anesthesia.

0.40 BAC and up: Onset of coma, and possible death due to respiratory arrest.



One thing that you may have noticed - BAC's in excess of 0.125% will NOT increase the pleasure, only the discomfort. At 0.125% you reach the level of euphoria. Once you pass that level, euphoria is reduced. So if you are drinking and you want to have a good time, you probably want to be close to 0.125% and not higher.


The real question is: how much alcohol do I need to drink to get to that level? First, let’s first define a “drink”. One drink is 1.25 oz. of 40% liquor, 12 oz. of beer, or 5 oz. of table wine. The chart below shows you how many drinks affect your BAC by body weight. Time plays a factor as well so subtract .01% for each 40 minutes of drinking.


Approximate Blood Alcohol Percentage
Drinks
Body Weight in Pounds


100
120
140
160
180
200
220
240

0
.00
.00
.00
.00
.00
.00
.00
.00
Only Safe
Driving Limit
0
.00
.00
.00
.00
.00
.00
.00
.00
Only Safe Driving Limit
1
.04
.03
.03
.02
.02
.02
.02
.02
Driving
Skills
Significantly
Affected











Possible
Criminal
Penalties
2
.08
.06
.05
.05
.04
.04
.03
.03
3
.11
.09
.08
.07
.06
.06
.05
.05
4
.15
.12
.11
.09
.08
.08
.07
.06
5
.19
.16
.13
.12
.11
.09
.09
.08
6
.23
.19
.16
.14
.13
.11
.10
.09
Legally
Intoxicated











Criminal
Penalties
7
.26
.22
.19
.16
.15
.13
.12
.11
8
.30
.25
.21
.19
.17
.15
.14
.13
9
.34
.28
.24
.21
.19
.17
.15
.14
10
.38
.31
.27
.23
.21
.19
.17
.16
Death Possible

So, for your average teenager weighing 160 lbs., after about 6 drinks over a 2 hour period, you will reach the highest level of enjoyment you can attain by drinking alcohol. After that amount, your enjoyment will start to go downhill. 10 drinks over that same period of time can cause you to blackout.


Some other points to keep in mind:
·
Plan ahead – if you just have a bottle of scotch and keep pouring from it repeatedly, there is no way you will know how much you’re drinking. What I used to do was pour off the amount I wanted to drink into a small ginger ale bottle before Purim. That way, I didn’t drink more then I wanted to.

Not drinking too much is for your own enjoyment. You don’t want to be the guy in the corner crying who is probably in the 0.16%-0.19% range.

Little known fact - If you are under 21, it is illegal to drive after drinking even if you are under 0.08%. It is only after 21 that the 0.08 rule comes into effect. (See what court ordered driving school teaches you?)

Keep active. Don't just sit down and watch everyone dance. If you keep active, you will drink less and will be more aware of your level of intoxication.

Keep track of how much you are drinking. Know how much alcohol is poured into every glass.

Pace your drinking, allow time between drinks.

If you are going out with friends and you are afraid you will be pressured to drink more then you want to, dilute your alcohol before you leave. That way you can keep up with the drinkers while enjoying yourself more.

Have other suggestions? Write them in the comments and I will add them.

I hope that with this knowledge, people who will be drinking this Purim will know and understand how they are affecting their body. With that knowledge they will better be able to decide how much to drink and hopefully drink responsibly.

Have a safe enjoyable Purim.

*******************************************************
Disclaimer: I am not condoning drinking. I just feel that people should be aware of what they are doing to themselves.


A lot of the information in this post is from B.R.A.D. (Be Responsible About Drinking, Inc).

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a teen i strongly approve this post

Shimmy said...

Finally, something sensible. When will the powers that be learn that sensationalism does not work? If anything, it makes teens feel like the adults are trying to impose on them.

Kudos, AEF.

A note to anyone who is using drugs or is thinking about it: Get the book quoted in the post: Buzzed. Know what you're getting yourself into.

Jacob said...

Great post!

Your message about the ineffectiveness of sensationalist campaigns on the key group they are meant to address is well taken. I agree that this method is often wasted (no pun intended) on the teenage population, however your approach is one that I cannot see the frum community endorsing anytime in the near future. You are suggesting a similar approach to the harm reduction model that is used by some in the general treatment of alcohol and substance abuse addictions. Harm reduction strategies have been met with fierce resistance by many influential groups in the addictions field, even though in limited studies they appear effective. The reasons for this resistance are partially political (AA model is based on abstinence so they would be out of business)but it is also because all of society is uncomfortable with the concept of allowing people to be imperfect (even when the other option is that against their advice the person will do many worse things). This kind of belief and attitude is even more prevalent in the frum community and therefore it is all the more challenging for any harm reduction strategies to be implemented.

Anonymous said...

As some one who has recently finished rehab I would have to agree and diagree at the same time the drinking is not the core problum that we have a lot of teens are struggling to begin with and this just makes it kosher for them to get away with it I do agree that knoledge is power but those who get so wsted that need to get taken a way in an abulance by hatzola could have deeper core issues wich are not being adressed in the first place if the real issues would be Adressed to begin with we would not have these issues prevention is is half the battle

AEF said...

Jacob - You bring up a sad point that I didn't want to discuss in the article. My intention wasn't to say that the Rabbanim are doing something wrong, but more that they may need to rethink their approach. The fact that they won't endorse this approach is something that I haven't given up hope on yet. But , yes, unfortunately people are very resistant to Harm reduction. (BTW - one of the reasons that harm reduction strategies have been met with fierce resistance by many influential groups in the addictions field is because once addicted most believe that you need to go cold turkey. I am not dealing with alcoholism in this post. I am more dealing with the once a year alcohol spree that Jewish teens tend to partake in.)

Anon - You are absolutely correct. Many teens are suffering with much bigger issues and this is just a way to let it out. My post will do little to help them. They need to be helped by their loved ones, not by general warnings and/or announcements. However, there are plenty of teens that don't know what they are doing and think that the more they drink, the better time they will have. The kids that don't really drink throughout the year and don't understand how it affects them. The alcoholic is the last person I'm really afraid of on Purim. He does this all the time. It's the unexperienced and uninformed that scare me.

Chaim said...

Drinking is dangerous. Period. My Yeshiva tried a "two beer limit" and even went so far as to provide the beer(!) but guys still found ways to drink to excess (and then some.) To me it seems the real problem isn't so much the drinking on Purim (I think its very wrong but we wont win that war) I think the big problem is the driving. We have to pound home into everyone's head IF YOU HAD ANYTHING TO DRINK, DON'T DRIVE. ever. You can't tell when it is a little to much. Not to sat alcohol can't cause other forms of accidental death, it can, but driving I feel is something we can practically prevent though a zero-tolerance message.

AEF said...

Chaim - you are absolutely correct. The story you said about the two beer limit brings out my point. Kids will drink no matter what. Most teens don't cae that their Rabbeim said they should'nt drink or that "it can be their last Purim". Therefore kids need to know that if they do drink the safe way how, how much and what they are doing to themselves.

In regards o your driving point I should've stressed that more. You are correct. Driving after drinking ANYTHING is extremely dangerous (besides for illegal even under 0.08% as I pointed out). It can't be stressed enough. Thank you for pointing that out.

Concerned Parent and citizen said...

I am a little shocked that nothing in your post suggests that a teenagers brain is strongly affected by drinking as in:

http://ncadi.samhsa.gov/govpubs/ph323/

Q. Why can't teens drink if their parents can?
A. Teens’ brains and bodies are still developing; alcohol use can cause learning problems or lead to adult alcoholism.5 People who begin drinking by age 15 are five times more likely to abuse or become dependent on alcohol than those who begin drinking after age 20.

These are very serious claims. Did you ask Rabbi Dr. Twerski to vet this posting before publishing it? He is a smart man and has been dealing with this his whole professional life. Perhaps he can make the dangers more clear and personal than re-posting information from the Brad21 site.

How about some of the generic information from Mens Health for example:

http://menshealth.about.com/cs/teenhealth/a/teen_drinking.htm

"At the end of the day it has to be remembered that alcohol is a toxin.

Effects of excessive Alcohol on young bodies
# Youthful 'immature' organs can literally be poisoned by alcohol.

# The liver can be damaged. It takes a few days for it to recover and to get back to normal functioning after a 'session'.

# The heart can beat so irregularly that it can stop.

# The body can lose temperature causing hypothermia. Every year some teens die when they get drunk and pass out in the freezing cold.

# Too little sugar in the body can cause coma and seizures.

# Breathing can become so shallow or slow that it can stop.

# One of the most common ways in which teens (and adults) die from alcohol is by choking on their own vomit. If you vomit when you are unconscious you can easily breath it in. If your body cannot get the oxygen it needs brain damage or death results."

Why have you not mentioned that the dangers manifest from alcohol are much greater in teenagers than adults due to their incomplete body and brain development?

I think that the sonofaposek can do better.

Why not vet your posting now?

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