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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Lifeline laws limit losses

    It’s no secret that many UA students like to have a good time, whether it be at a kickback, house party, or even a frat bash. It’s also not a secret that copious amounts of alcohol are usually involved in such festivities. Most of the time things go great, but on a not-so-great night of binge drinking and poor decisions, things can often turn out really, really bad. What’s worse is the frightening realization that you could get into trouble simply by getting help for a friend in need.

    Binge drinking is a pervasive trend among college students, and the Center for Disease Control reports that 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States is by adolescents between the ages of 12 and 20. For this group, 90 percent of their drinking occurred as binge drinking, meaning that five or more drinks were consumed in about two hours for men or four in about two hours for women.

    Binge drinking can result in alcohol poisoning or, if left untreated, death. In a study by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in New Jersey, you start accumulating risk at a blood alcohol level of 0.30 and it only gets worse as you drink more. Unfortunately, judging just how intoxicated you are is no easy task, especially when you factor in variables such as time, hydration, and weight.

    While underage drinking is not going to vanish, we can push for legislation to support and protect students who need to report serious accidents or overdoses. Currently, Arizona does not have such “Lifeline” legislation, but it has been successfully implemented in Indiana and Colorado, where underage drinkers are protected from criminal prosecution for illegal possession or consumption if they call 911 and ask for medical assistance, and they provide their names and remain on the scene to cooperate with the medical and law personnel.

    When students are faced with the choice between letting a friend “sleep it off” or getting the notorious minor in possession slip we’ve all come to fear, it’s no wonder that many students would hesitate to act, further endangering the life of someone who is severely intoxicated or even blacked out.

    ASU conducted a random survey of 6,000 undergraduates and 1,500 graduates and asked what would compel them to seek medical attention for someone passed out or incoherent due to alcohol. 35.5% of those surveyed said they feared getting their friend into trouble, and 47.6% said they wouldn’t even know what to do. In a life or death situation, hesitation is the worst reaction to have.

    While the Lifeline Law is not a surefire way of avoiding an MIP or other repercussions of underage drinking, it is the most effective way of protecting underage drinkers in situations of medical necessity. When properly in place, the Medical Amnesty Protocol at Cornell University reported that more people called for assistance and there was less fear of getting into trouble that forestalls aid.

    Michael Rabbani, a freshman studying environmental sciences and business administration, readily agreed that safety must be the biggest priority for students in trouble.

    He said that “by giving minors leniency in a situation like this, it would take away any hesitation they have to call authorities for help.” When you’re not scared to call for help, it’s that much easier to make a responsible and crucial decision. Right now, Arizona law puts more lives at risk than it protects. It is clearly illegal to drink if you are not 21, but this fact is continually ignored by the pleasure-seeking party-goer. Rather than punish responsible actions, we need to protect our students with laws that will encourage them to seek help and realize that irresponsible binge drinking isn’t the way to have a good time in college.

    A Lifeline Law is one of the greatest gifts we could give our students, and as a solution to an already prevalent problem, it encourages responsibility and promotes health and safety even in a crisis situation.

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