Courtney is joined by Wes Thomas and Marissa Bailey from WELLWVU to chat about alcohol. They review some safer drinking strategies that WVU students can use if they choose to drink alcohol. For more information, you can visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/community/restaurants-and-bars-decision-tree.pdf.

Transcription: 

All right. Welcome everyone to Wellbeing Wednesdays. I am your host, Courtney Weaver coming at you from. Well, my second bedroom, but in general, we become an entry from West Virginia university. And I lied to you last week because I said it was going to be our last one, but our friends at the da are really doing us a favor.

Elena's continued for the summer, um, because our, our content is important. And it's a great way for us to, to talk to the masses or the dozens of people that actually listen, not sure. Um, so with me today, we have two guests. I love it moved to, yes, we have Wes Thomas and Marissa Bailey. Both folks work with me over in, well, WVU.

I'm going to let them introduce themselves and explain a little bit about their role at the university. So Wes, why don't you go first? Hello. Thanks for having me. My name is Wes Thomas. I am a health educator with well WVU, been with the university for five years and my primary focus as a health educator is alcohol and other drug prevention education.

All right, well thank you, Wes and Marissa. Hey, thanks for having us. I'm an avid listener of Wellbeing Wednesdays, so I'm excited to be here. Um, I work with the graduate assistant position with alcohol and other drug prevention and education at well WVU. I'm a graduate student at Western University and I study integrated marketing communications.

All right. Well, thank you both again for taking the time out to join us today. We're actually going to talk about alcohol, uh, based on what both of you do for us at weld the review. So let's talk for a minute about our philosophy surrounding alcohol education, um, and what we use, uh, in our strategies. So, Wes, you have a little bit of a backstory about where our philosophy is sort of grounded.

Uh, well from a book I read a while back, uh, an interesting book called the history of drunkenness by author, Mark foresight. Um, he tells the story of Plato's symposium. So in reading that story, it occurred to me how well WVU is philosophies routing. I'll call is informed by ancient Greek philosopher, Plato.

Uh, so to give you the background of that, Uh, Greek symposiums were drinking events in ancient Greece, where anywhere from 12 to sometimes as many as 30 men would gather at a private residence, typically of the wealthier more elite class. So at the symposiums, they'd have a small meal and then they'd enter this large circular room in the middle of the residents with couches all around.

And various drinking themed murals painted all over the walls and each symposium had a theme or topic that the host would come up with. All the guests were required to elaborate on in discussion as they were drinking. So at these Greek symposiums drunkenness was very deliberate. That was the goal. So unlike what might be considered a mature adult event, w uh, you know, in our modern Western world, uh, you know, we're drinking occurs, but high levels of drunkenness aren't necessarily the goal.

Uh, generally they might be seen as an accidental occurrence, for example, you know, so, and so might have had one too many, or I drank a little more than I intended to do something embarrassing. Uh, but at these symposiums, Drunkenness was never accidental. Uh, so, so what they did, each guest was given a large bowl of wine and they had to completely finished it before getting another and not finishing your bowl of wine.

It was considered rude and quote unquote unmanly. And aside that, that the wine they drank, they actually, uh, Mix it with water. So it had about the same ABB as, uh, the, what a standard beer that, you know, most people currently drink today. That's how they consumed their alcohol at Deezer symposiums. So each symposium had a designated host, typically the person whose residence it was, but not always.

And the host sets the tone symposiums. So if the host says drink, The guests have to drink. And sometimes the host took a more mild, slower approach to getting drunk and the guests followed accordingly, but more often than not, the host would ensure that the events. Turned into binges. Uh, in either case the host was absolutely in charge of the guests drinking.

So this is why Plato's symposium is the most famous symposium, uh, from how I understand it, he wasn't the host, but he was a guest there. And add the symposium just as the drinking was about to commence. The host who happened to be hung over from the night before announced to the group. And I paraphrase now my friends, how can we drink with the least amount of injury to ourselves?

I can assure you that I feel severely the effect of yesterday's drinking, and must have time to recover. That statement that he made to the group led to what was considered an extraordinary decision by the group. Uh, that drinking was not going to be the primary focus of the event. Everyone would drink just as much as they please.

And only as much as they please not be forced to drink more than they wanted. And that would have been unheard of to the average ancient Greek at the time, uh, in Plato, the philosopher Plato is the one who had to really clarify this for everyone, because it was such a novel concept. So he stood up, uh, and declared that at the symposium.

Drinking would be voluntary. So for what came to be known as Plato symposium drinking would be voluntary and there would be special consideration for how to drink with the least amount of harm to each guest. That that concept informs our current harm reduction philosophy at well WVU, because it's our hope that if there's a drinking event among students at WVU, perhaps, uh, that.

Should I choose an should a student choose to drink that that choice would be voluntary and they wouldn't be compelled or forced to drink any more than they, they wish to themselves. And that people take consideration of making sure that people aren't getting harmed in the process. Right. And I think that you've brought up the phrase harm reduction and that's, that's important.

Um, because you'll notice that we don't come from, or their alcohol or sexual health education from an absence model, because research has shown that it's not effective. Of course, if you don't choose to drink. Great. Um, but if you do choose, we do want you to drink responsibly and to use safer drinking strategies.

So let's talk now about those safer drinking strategies. So why are they important to use and what are some of the strategies that students at WVU could use for themselves? Uh, sacred drinking strategies. They're important to use because they help prevent negative outcomes for both the person drinking and others who happen to be around that person.

Uh, students who use safer drinking strategies tend to have far less legal, academic and personal issues that arise from drinking, uh, along with the physical and mental health aspects of drinking to consider. And so what are some examples of the tangible actions that people can take while they're? There are several, uh, first one being, uh, eating before and while drinking.

And the reason for this is, uh, That having food in the stomach slows the absorption of alcohol from the stomach to the bloodstream. Uh, protein is, is the best choice for this, but food is food in this regard and having some food in your stomach, whether it's like bread or pasta or meat or vegetable. It's always better than having no food in your stomach.

So, and having that food in your stomach helps, helps prevent the rapid onset of the physical effects of alcohol that can cause lightheadedness or fainting or feeling sick to your stomach. So it's always good to have some food in your stomach. If someone is drinking, you know, I remember in my undergraduate.

I think human physiology class, my professor, who I loved, she was like so tough. Um, she talked a lot about, um, alcohol and the stomach and how the alcohol is one of the few substances it's absorbed directly by your stomach lining. And so it gets into your bloodstream quicker. Hence why, if you have a full stomach, it's less access to the lining.

Uh, so that's my little bit about eating. Um, so besides eating, what else can we do? Yeah. And on top of that tip, we have the tip that we talk about called drinking in moderation, or keeping drinks to one or fewer drinks per hour. So the body can metabolize one standard drink per hour. And time is the only thing that can lower someone's BAC, not, you know, the myths of taking a hot shower or a cold shower, chugging, a bottle of water.

Those aren't going to live out your BAC time is the only thing that can lower it. And drinking in moderation. What does PAC stand for? Marissa blood alcohol content. Yeah. So keeping these drinks in moderation, I wonder if your per hour can help keep a person's BAC at a safer level throughout the evening, keeping the evening kind of at an even tone throughout the night.

And then we talk about standard drinks. Um, let's talk about a little bit, the sizes of a standard drink. So for a standard glass of beer, that is 12 ounces for a standard glass of wine. That is five ounces and for a standard shot of 80 proof liquor looking at 1.5 ounces. Now some craft beers differ a little bit because they may have a higher alcohol content than a standard beer.

So you just kind of, kind of keep that in mind. If you're choosing to drink a craft beer or a type of alcohol that has a higher alcohol content than your standard drink. Okay, good to know. So you've got eating, keeping drinks to a one or fewer per hour. What else you got? Uh, another good, good tip that we always emphasize with students is to stick with one type of alcohol.

Um, and there's a couple of reasons for that. If, if a person goes from drinking to, to keep drinking tequila, to drinking beer, To wine to whiskey. It's very likely that they're not being very thoughtful about their drinking behavior or its consequences. They're probably just drinking. What's available.

What's in front of them with the goal of getting drunk. So along with the risks of intoxication and consuming different drinks with varying amounts of alcohol in them, all those ingredients and additives. Uh, of the different types of alcohol are going to be difficult for a person's body to process. So, uh, if you're mixing all these different types of drinks, that person will likely experience at least some stomach discomfort as a result, but also the twist to stick with one type of alcohol is a conscious decision to act in a way.

That benefits, that person's wellbeing. So if someone sets that attention, that intention for themselves, they're setting the tone for an overall more positive experience. And what else? Cause we have, I mean, there are a lot of ways that we can employ, like, there are a lot of ways to stay safe, so just keep them coming.

The next one that we like to talk about as a part of our tips are, is alternating alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, like the prime beverage water. And this helps a person, you know, stay hydrated throughout the evening and also slows the rate of alcohol consumption. Uh, also you can, uh, keep track of how many drinks you're consuming, uh, and set a limit.

Uh, there's a, there's a researcher, a, an alcohol researcher named dr. Peter Adidas. He, he created a program called the alcohol literacy challenge, and he's done all kinds of research, but in his research, he's came to the conclusion that some people sincerely believe that the more they drink, the more fun they have and the more people will like them.

And that belief is what's driving their drinking behavior without any regard to the amount that they're consuming. But of course that belief doesn't prevent that person from eventually experiencing the negative consequences related to drinking excessively. They're going to have that negative experience or that negative consequence in spite of their belief that the more alcohol, the better and the more fun you have.

Um, so when you set a limit for yourself, uh, you're establishing an intention. And if someone sets a limit. For themselves before they start drinking, it triggers that part of the brain that acknowledges, if you drink too much, it could be a bad experience for you. And that knowledge is what's going to drive your drinking behavior in a more positive direction.

So rather than having the inaccurate belief of the more, the better your what's driving your behavior is the knowledge that if I drink too much, it might not be a pleasant experience for me. The guy is like the best, last name ever pronounced to get it. Right

next. We talk about using a ride share program or a DD. It does need the driver and to have a plan to get home safely. And you want to make this plan. For the drinking begins so that everyone is in, you know, a clear state of thinking about what they want to do or their plan to get home. And, you know, this works for if someone is drinking during the day or during the evening, luckily it's so easy to get these ride sharing apps on your phone and people are driving 24 seven.

So. Pretty accessible. Uh, another one is, uh, avoid drinking from shared containers sometimes, uh, in college sounds you might have a scene where, you know, it's people refer to it as jungle juice. It has different names where you had a bunch of fruit juice and different kinds of alcohols in a big tub or. A bathtub or a cooler.

Um, and if you see those, you really have no idea what is in it, how much alcohol is in it, or if any other drugs have been added as well, which, which does in fact happen. Um, so if you didn't make yourself, you have no idea. So the safest bet is to eliminate that risk for yourself and not drink from those shared type of containers.

I mean, especially in a bathtub bathtub, glass cleaned too, it's like. John one would hope they cleaned it before making their concoctions. Right. That's delicious not to follow that one up. We're going to talk about making your own drink. That's another tip that we share this way, you know exactly how much.

In your drink, how much alcohol and what is exactly in their drink as well. And also another big point to talk about is if you are somewhere at a party at a restaurant at a bar and you leave your drink unattended for any period of time that it's not in your eyesight or in your hand, just throw that drink away.

You don't know if maybe it would have been tampered with while you were gone or. You just never know what happened to while you were gone. Uh, another tip is to avoid drinking games and just be comfortable turning down a request to play drinking games. Don't feel like you have to, you know, be pressured into it or like you have something to prove.

Uh, and especially if you're hosting a party. Don't encourage our guests to start a drinking game. Uh, have other have other things to do that don't involve competitive drinking, different sorts of games. And what have you, uh, drinking games, they encourage access. There's no, there's not moderation there.

The point of it is access. So their best to avoid. And if you're hosting a party, you especially should want to, uh, prevent access from your guests because you can be held legally liable for. Uh, if somebody happens to be drinking underage there, if somebody happens to get in a physical altercation or physical injury related to drinking, Or worse, whatever the case might be.

If you host a party and are serving alcohol to people, you can be held liable for what happens. So you'd want to prevent, uh, over intoxication and your guests. And one of our final tips we're gonna talk about today is avoid combining alcohol with other drugs. You know, there's always that risk, whether someone chooses to mix alcohol with, um, an over the counter type of drug or prescription drug or an illicit drug.

There's that internal physical aspect where the processing and of the different kinds of substances can put heavy strain on a person's liver and can result in serious lifelong damage, even if it's just one instance of mixing. Um, but there's also the scary experiences that you don't know what's going to happen to your body.

It's very unpredictable. Your body might react in one way. The first time it's mixed with a specific set of drugs and alcohol, and then it might act completely different if you choose to use that same combination again. Those are your, those are your, that the 10, that there's plenty more, but those are especially the 10 that we'd like to emphasize.

All right. Um, so let's take some time now to talk about our wellbeing snapshot. So we're in the time of this pandemic, um, and States are starting to reopen, and that means that our bars and restaurants are also reopening. So how. Do we stay safe during this time of reopening? And then what are the risks associated with drinking alcohol and the time of a pandemic?

Sure. Well, ultimately right now, you know, we see here in West Virginia bars and restaurants are open and patrons are visiting, whether that be at just half capacity or outdoor dining kind of situations. And ultimately it's the individual's choice, whether they feel safe going to the location or whether they, you know, kind of.

I would wait a little bit before visiting a bar or a restaurant. Um, but with bars reopening, we see that, you know, situations that a lot of people are excited to get out of their houses. So. I was looking into, you know, what the CDC center for disease control and prevention has been giving out for considerations, for bars and restaurants to open.

And they suggest, you know, some specific guidelines that restaurants and bars should practice. If they want their patrons to feel safe and their staff and their employees and the overall atmosphere to feel like a welcoming place right now. They first talk about having employees, you know, wash their hands really frequently and wear masks when it's feasible or when it's possible, just to avoid that, share that spread of germs.

But they're also really heightening their cleaning procedures, you know, doing some constant sanitation, um, disinfecting and also they're promoting social distancing. Like we talked about a little bit ago, they were having. Maybe not full capacity, maybe 50% capacity in their locations, making sure the tables are set at least six feet apart and limiting how many people can sit at a certain table or even the bar area.

Well, thank you again to Wes and Marissa for joining me on this episode where we walk down the road of safer drinking strategies. So I appreciate you all taking the time and thank you all for listening, and we will catch you next time on Wellbeing Wednesday.