As many students blow off steam after years of COVID-19 related restrictions by partying on the weekends once again, they face the health risks of both alcohol and drug emergencies. However, there are resources available to students as they navigate how to manage these scenarios.
Often, these health risks are not accompanied by legal risks if students call for help because New York State Good Samaritan protocols protect both the caller and ill person from judicial and legal consequences if they call for assistance for themselves or others due to an alcohol- or drug-related emergency.
According to Laura Santacrose, assistant director of the Skorton Center for Health Initiatives, if a student is experiencing an alcohol or other drug-related emergency or if they see someone experiencing an overdose of any kind, they should call 911.
Calling Cornell CUEMS is also an option in case of a medical emergency. According to Salaiha Mughal ‘22, Community Education Officer for CUEMS, emergency medical technicians for CUEMS coordinate with other medical units if further care is needed after they respond to a call and assess the patient.
Signs that a student should call for help include if someone has passed out and can’t be kept awake or roused, if their skin looks abnormal and if their breathing is slow, according to Santacrose. Caution is especially important if someone has mixed drugs and alcohol or has hit their head. The 24/7 Cornell Health helpline, at 607-255-5155, can help students assess if what they are seeing is in fact a medical emergency.
After an alcohol or drug-related emergency, students go through Brief Alcohol Screening & Intervention for College Students and get personalized feedback in two free BASICS sessions to help reflect on their alcohol and/or drug use and to think about how it is affecting their life, according to Penny Krainin, assistant director for counseling & psychological services clinical programs. While some students participate in BASICS voluntarily, others are required to participate if they have broken House roles or Cornell’s student code of conduct.
“BASICS is an important evidence-based strategy that’s been part of Cornell’s comprehensive approach to the prevention of AOD misuse for nearly two decades,” Kranin wrote to The Sun.
While alcohol and drug use cause health risks for some students, a third of Cornell undergraduates at Cornell do not drink, according to Santacrose.
“Many are underage. Some aren’t interested. Some take a medication like an antidepressant that doesn’t mix well with alcohol. Some have a family history of addiction or are in recovery themselves,” Santacrose wrote. “Some just don’t like it, or it’s against their religion. There are also lots of reasons a student may choose not to drink on any given night including being overtired, training for an athletic event or having a test the next day.”
Santacrose says because COVID-19 risks remain significant, there are even more reasons to limit drinking. If students are going to drink socially, Santacrose recommends that people “socialize smarter,” by keeping in-person gatherings outdoors and small, and asking attendees to wear masks and wash their hands because precautions can be harder to maintain under the influence.
“Drinking alcohol can impair judgement and lead people to take more risks, including those related to COVID,” Santacrose wrote. “Avoiding alcohol or reducing how much you drink can further reduce your risk of infection.”
Many students have used alcohol and other drugs less in the last year, as they avoided groups, stayed home more, wore masks and partied less which made the pandemic easier to manage locally, according to Santacrose.
“The corresponding decline in AOD-related transports to the hospital has also been helpful in preserving medical resources at the local hospital as it works to care for COVID patients,” Santacrose wrote.
According to Krainin, students who want to reassess their relationship with alcohol and drugs have access to resources including BASICS, Cornell CAPS counseling and peer support through groups including Cornell Minds Matter and [email protected].