21st Birthday Program advocates safe drinking

Caves Wellness Center located at Stevenson University on the Owings Mills campus. (Photo from Villager files)

Caves Wellness Center located at Stevenson University on the Owings Mills campus. (Photo from Villager files)

The Wellness Center has created a 21st birthday program to ensure the safety of students who are turning 21 and who can legally purchase and consume alcohol. Other universities participate in this program as well and have seen significant results.

The purpose of the 21st birthday program is to provide information to students to encourage them to drink safely. The NIH (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) reports that in 2014, 37.9% of college student’s ages 18-­‐22 engaged in binge drinking, defined as consuming excessive amounts of alcohol over a short duration of time.

Studies conducted at different universities with this program have shown that a percentage of students who have received facts about drinking consumed fewer drinks and thus reached lower blood alcohol content levels.

Cory Ott, a peer educator receives his 21st birthday gift bag from the Caves Wellness Center. (Photo Courtesy of Brenda Boggs)

Peer educators send an email to students one week prior to their 21st birthday, inviting them to come to the Caves Center to pick up a gift bag. This semester, the gift bag is filled with different flavors of popcorn, water, a fact pamphlet and a card, but the contents of the gift bag change every semester.

The pamphlet includes facts about alcohol overdose and a chart showing levels of blood alcohol concentration based on weight and the number of drinks consumed. Inside the birthday card, signs of alcohol poisoning are listed as a set of safety facts to remember while celebrating.

After students celebrate their 21st birthday, a survey is emailed to them for feedback. The survey asks questions such as, “Did the facts about safe drinking help?” and “How much did you drink?” Only about one-third of Stevenson students respond to the survey; however, the responses that have come back have been positive.

Brenda Boggs, nurse practitioner at Stevenson, said, “This program is important so that awareness gets out because students do not understand what alcohol can do to their bodies. Once alcohol poisoning sets in, it’s too late. Not much awareness is out there that alcohol can kill and cause injuries and risky behaviors.”

Turning 21 is a memorable time in any adult’s life. Knowing the facts and safety tips about drinking beforehand can aid in a fun and safe 21st birthday.