Significant increase in alcohol overdoeses

Emergency transports this past month exceed level for all of last year


Courtesy/Thomas DeRoche

Goffstown fire department responds to emergency call.

Thomas DeRoche and Anna Raley

In the past month, nine Saint Anselm students have been transported for alcohol overdoses. The widespread use of alcohol among college students has instituted a universal cultural norm. This stereotype and custom has been known to the Saint Anselm community, possibly even more so than normal in recent weeks.

Due to the pandemic and the closing of university campuses in spring 2020, the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that there was a prevalent decrease in underage drinking. The speculation made was that because students had moved back home to their families, access to alcohol had declined. If these statistics remain true, then why did the Saint Anselm campus see more 911 calls for alcohol overdoses these past four weeks than all of last year?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), students may be drinking more to make up for lost time. In previous years, freshmen were most likely to be transported for alcohol intoxication. This year, however, there has been a shift towards the sophomore class. This is likely due to the removal of restrictions governing parties, as well as increased access to alcohol. 

Eight out of nine transports were for underage students, of which there were five females and four males. The fact that more transports were called for students underage is to be expected as for these students, many are unaware of their own physical limits when it comes to alcohol consumption. There is a particular vulnerability during these first six weeks of school, as well, due to social pressures and academic stress.

As students experience an increase of exams, assignments, and pressure to succeed in a higher-level education,  they are more likely to drink to cope, which is associated with heavy episodic drinking (HED) (4/5+ drinks for women/men on one occasion). 

An NIAAA study has found that, each year an estimated 1,825 college students die from alcohol-related injuries; 97,000 students are estimated to be victims of alcohol related sexual assault; and 19% of college students meet the criteria for alcohol dependencey or severe acholism. Alcohol abuse on campus is a disturbing inevitable consequence of the college drinking custom, but students can help break this stigma by drinking responsibly and taking care of their friends.

The Director of Health Services, Maura Marshall, furthered the plea to break drinking stigma by advising students to plan ahead and stick together as friends when drinking. Marshall argued that “nothing good happens after midnight” and “there are other things to do on campus besides drink. Consistently, around 70% of Saint A’s students do not drink in a high risk way (defined as >4 drinks when going out.)”

Drinking among students continues to raise concern across the Saint Anselm campus. Alcohol has long been associated with the college experience, which is a custom that is not likely to change, however, the way in which the Saint A’s community approaches this cultural phenomenon can be changed. As the weekend approaches students are reminded to stay together, make sure everyone is safe, hold each other accountable, and call for help when needed.