Intercom Online......October 22, 1998

Full house

Students taking Biobehavioral Health 45 at University Park learn how even moderate drinking can damage their bodies. Carol Gold, instructor for the alcohol awareness course, said papers the students write indicate that many do examine their attitudes about alcohol consumption as a result of what they learn in the class.
Photo: Greg Grieco

Class helps students
get the facts on alcohol

By Karen Trimbath
Public Information

The photos of stomach ulcers and damaged livers were gross, but they proved a point to the 185 students enrolled in one section of Penn State's alcohol awareness education course -- even moderate drinking can damage your body.

"Those pictures were effective. It's one thing to hear about the physical changes caused by drinking, but it's another to see it," said Melissa Ritter, a sophomore majoring in education.

Like Ritter, most students are taking Biobehavioral Health 45 to fulfill a general education requirement in the health sciences and physical education, but that doesn't bother course instructor Carol Gold, a faculty member in the Department of Biobehavioral Health. No matter what their reasons are for signing up, she still wants them to examine their attitudes toward drinking and help them become more aware of their adult responsibilities.

Gold believes they do listen, citing the thoughtfulness of their reaction papers as proof. For instance, one assignment included a scenario requiring them to choose between going to a party and studying for a test. Some indicated they would go to the party and not drink while others said they would stay home and study.

She guides students through the semester with readings, videos, exercises and speakers, including students who are recovering alcoholics and physicians. The course, which is offered each semester, helps them understand how alcohol affects families and communities, and allows them to recognize the signs of alcohol abuse and how to get help. Local alcohol-related incidents -- such as the July 12 riot in downtown State College -- fuel class discussions.

In one exercise, students compute their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels according to their weight and sex. Gold said students are surprised to learn that a female will reach a much higher BAC level than a male for the same amount of alcohol -- mostly because women, on average, weigh less and have far less of a stomach enzyme that metabolizes alcohol than men do.

"By the end of the semester, some of the students tell me they have cut down on drinking because of what they have learned in the class," said Gold. "I'm happy to have had this impact on these students."

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