Balancing books and booze

Most students want to have a good time during college experiences, but poor choices can lead to problems with relationships and academic pursuits.

On Monday evening inside the Phyllis P. Marshall Center Ballroom, an animated David Hellstrom discussed how alcohol affects the choices people make.

“Most of us want to have a great time, great social life,” Hellstrom said. “We have the power to get these things by making the right choices. When it comes to the alcohol issue, we’re not very objective. We don’t make the connection between the choices we make and the things that happen to us.”

Hellstrom is the director of education and training for the BACCHUS and GAMMA Peer Education Network and has worked as a spokesman for healthy choices regarding alcohol and other health related issues for more than 15 years. According to the corporation’s Web site, BACCHUS is a nonprofit organization with the mission of promoting peer-to-peer strategies as effective tools in health and safety education and prevention programs.

“I think he has a very relevant and positive message for students and focuses on the fact that each person can play a role and save someone’s life,” Vice President and Chief Operations Officer for the BACCHUS Network Janet Cox said.

Because alcohol affects a number of the functions in the brain, Hellstrom told students to plan before they choose to go out.

“Can I go home? Have I had enough? Can I drive? Is that person attractive? We’re asking you to make these decisions before you go out,” Hellstrom said.

Hellstrom said people sometimes gather in circles in order to decide who is the least drunk to drive.

“It’s like idiots in action,” Hellstrom said. “Don’t make decisions at 1 in the morning when your brain doesn’t work anymore.”

He said students should make safe decisions and not put themselves at risk of overdrinking or rely on alcohol for support.

Not all students abuse alcohol, and surveys show that most students spend more of their time in the library than at parties.

“Most of college students are pretty healthy. Most of us make pretty good decisions most of the time,” Hellstrom said.

With the results, Hellstrom was able to together a scenario that showed the drinking habits of 100 people at a party. Out of those 100, 10 were participating in high-level drinking behavior, which is consuming more than five or six drinks in the course of an evening.

Hellstrom said that these are the people who are remembered and talked about after a party. They are the people who pass out, get into fights and run around naked.

“Decision-making is very important,” graduate student Melissa Pass said of the lecture. “He was very funny and engaging, and I liked how he got a lot of the crowd to participate.”

Pass, who worked in conjunction with the University Lecture Series to bring Hellstrom to USF, is a member of the Substance Education Awareness Team.

Last week, Pass and members of SEAT were busy promoting Safe Spring Break.

“We just try to encourage students to make healthy choices, whether it be (not) choosing a drunk driver or, if a person chooses to have sex, to use protection,” Pass said.

USF sophomore Andrew Kirkland said Hellstrom’s message was vital for all students.

“My wish is for all students on campus to be here because what he says applies so much to us as college students,” Kirkland said. “A series like this can really change students’ lives.”