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Alcohol Check-In Sees Record Crowd

Drawn by the promise of free water bottles, more than 1,330 students flocked to the Malkin Athletic Center last Friday for National Alcohol Screening Day, marking a record level of participation that rose by almost 40 percent from last year.

The annual event, which takes place at hospitals, community centers, and universities around the country, requires individuals to fill out a brief survey about their alcohol use and consult privately with a health professional about their responses.

Ryan M. Travia, the director of Harvard’s Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Services (AODS), said that the turnout was especially high this year because students have learned to anticipate the event and encourage their friends to come.

“This is our fifth year of doing this, and the event is institutionalized now,” Travia said. “We had a full court press with advertising, but in my mind, word of mouth is what really works.”

He added that the data from the screening, along with student responses to University Health Services’ recent health assessment survey, will hopefully provide UHS with valuable insight into student drinking patterns.

Travia said that the information will be especially important this year because AODS has projected that alcohol-related hospital admissions at Harvard will rise again after jumping by 35 percent last year.

“We continue to remain curious about the uptick,” he said. “We’ll see if the numbers bear out much differently than in previous years.”

According to C. Chloe Orlando ’11, events chair for the Drug and Alcohol Peer Advisor (DAPA) program, the screenings also give students a valuable opportunity to reflect on the role that alcohol plays in their lives.

“Some students come here with serious drinking problems,” Orlando said. “Some of them realize it and some don’t.”

Gregory Rudolph, a freshman proctor who served as a screener for the event, said he found the variation in self-reported experiences to be the most striking aspect of his conversations with students.

“There are some people who never drink in their four years here, and others are drinking heavily every weekend,” Rudolph said.

AODS coordinated the day-long event with help from around 40 students who work as DAPAs as well as nearly 50 screeners drawn from across UHS and the local community.

source: The Harvard Crimson

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