Deaths from binge drinking can be prevented. But it will take a massive effort to educate and change behavior among students, parents, teachers, and college communities.
The battle against the deep-rooted drinking culture will be steep. Scroll any social media feed - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat stories - and you will see young people, many underage, doing shots, drinking out of handles of hard alcohol containers, holding red Solo cups, playing beer pong games, passed out, and more. One cannot scroll for a minute without encountering photos of people of all different ages partying.
The pervasive message: Partying is fun, and you're not having fun unless you are drinking too. In this world, drinking means being an adult, and they want to show the world how they can handle it - or not. This has been the message for years through many media, including television, movies, and magazines. Shows like Tosh.0 glamorize the foolish and dangerous behavior of hammered young people. Social media instantly and proudly display it for all friends and followers to view. Technology brings the battlefront everywhere.
So here we are again, with another tragic death that resulted from binge drinking, discussing another family's unimaginable loss and sorrow. After the death of Penn State sophomore Tim Piazza from binge drinking while surrounded by supposed fraternity "brothers," one wonders: How do you teach teenagers to apply good judgment skills when their own judgment is undermined by alcohol?
Here are six ways society, including parents, students, and educators, can begin to shift the culture:
Stop posting, liking, or sharing social media posts featuring drinking. Notice the photos. And just stop.
Teach teenagers the science and importance of knowing their alcohol-intake limits. Teach them what physical impairment and the vulnerability of intoxication looks like.
Know the signs of alcohol poisoning: cool to the touch, slurred speech, unresponsive, stumbling, and vomiting. Shrugging it off as someone "passed out" and "sleeping it off" could mean death.
Discourage all drinking games at your home or tailgate party. Don't allow shots of alcohol at gatherings, including Jello shots. The sole purpose is to get drunk, so just stop. The same goes for keg stands.
Parents and young adults: Never purchase or serve alcohol to minors.
If someone is impaired: Don't Stall, Just Call! Save a life.
Mary T. Ciammetti founded Don't Stall, Just Call and the CTC Wellness Foundation after losing her youngest son, Christian, to binge drinking in 2015. firstname.lastname@example.org