YU's Active Minds Discuss Alcoholism
With the holiday of Purim slowly approaching, the YU Active Minds club hosted an event on alcoholism awareness. As expected, the event focused on alcohol consumption on Purim, but not necessarily in the way one would have expected. Surprisingly, the theme of the night was not one of temperance, but rather encouraging students to simply be safer about their drinking habits. Dr Chaim Nissel, Dean of Students on the Wilf Campus, opened the evening’s discussion by saying that “we’re not here to tell you to drink or not drink, we just want a discussion about alcohol and safer drinking.”
The event was divided into three parts, with three panelists discussing different aspects of drinking on Purim, and alcoholism in general. The first panelist, Dr. Esty Rollhaus, an MD and Psychiatric resident, discussed the physical effects of alcohol on the body, and how to prevent dangerous intoxication, as well as alcohol poisoning. Dr. Rollhaus argued that the great danger when drinking on Purim is right after Taanis Esther, where people drink on an empty stomach. People consume one drink after another, believing that the alcohol is not affecting them. She explained that alcohol takes a little time before you really start feeling the effects, and by having a quick succession of drinks on an empty stomach, you will get intoxicated quickly, putting a lot of stress on your liver. She recommended that to counter this, students should first eat a meal rich in proteins and fats, and to stay hydrated with non-alcoholic beverages, throughout the drinking process.
Dr. Rollhaus then cited that 1,825 students die each year from alcohol related incidents, with 600,000 injuries, and 97,000 cases of sexual assault. To help prevent any of this from happening, she urged students to travel with friends, refrain from accepting drinks from strangers, and of course to never drink and drive. Dr. Rollhaus ended her discussion by discussing how to take care of friends who have had too much to drink by, discouraging them from further consumption of alcohol, and if necessary, remain with them and help them into the safety position.
Once Dr. Rollhaus finished her remarks, the second panelist of the evening, Dr. Akiva Perlman spoke about alcohol addiction. Like the earlier speakers discussed, Dr. Perlman said that getting drunk is nothing to be ashamed about, and that there are many well-functioning people who have a couple of drinks every now and then. However, he warned that like Yom Kippur, “Purim should be a time for introspection.” He attributed this to the fact that alcohol, as well as other substances, can cause a change in people, and cause them to notice their own deficiencies. People then feel that only when they are drinking do they actually feel comfortable with who they are, stating that “I’ve never met an addict who is comfortable in their skin.” He advised that “the first rule of alcohol use is, are you taking care of yourself, because if you’re not, you may develop a poor relationship with it.”
The final panelist of the evening was a young man, simply going by Shmaya, who had previously struggled with addiction. In his story, Shmaya reiterated many of the issues that Dr. Perlman discussed in his presentation on why people become addicts. Shmaya felt that despite being a very talented individual, he did not succeed, believing that everyone had something that he was lacking. He drank alcohol because he felt that it was the only time that he was able to feel good about himself, and connect with others. He concluded his talk by urging those who are struggling with addiction to seek help immediately. He also urged people that if they know someone struggling with addiction, they should try to help them, regardless of the effects that it might have on the relationship.
YU’s Active Minds club is a branch of a national organization present on college campuses to remove the stigmas associated with mental health problems. Hopefully, the club’s discussion on the seriousness of alcoholism helped remove the negative perceptions of people struggling with addiction, in addition to giving them some good advice on how to remain safe on Purim.