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The Mass Media

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February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
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Alcohol and Substance Abuse Awareness

According to Dawn Skop, a licensed mental health, alcohol, and drug counselor, studies have show that every American family has in some way been affected by alcohol and substance abuse.

Skop, who travels to different schools around the country to educate young adults on the effects of alcohol and drugs, came to UMass Boston November 3 to share her knowledge and advice.

It takes one hour for the body to process an alcoholic drink-a 12-ounce beer, 4-ounce glass of wine, or a 1-ounce shot of hard liquor-Skop said. The more a person drinks in a shorter period of time, the higher the blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, level, she said.

In Massachusetts, the legal BAC level to drive is under 0.08%. The buzz effect-the experience of slight euphoria and loss of shyness-occurs in the body once BAC reaches 0.06%. Any higher, Skop said, and the depressant effect takes over, which manifests itself by impaired balance, speech, vision, reactions and hearing, and reduced judgment and self-control.

Skop said determining someone’s BAC level varies depending on the person’s gender and size; men have twice the amount of alcohol dehydrogenates-an enzyme that breaks down alcohol-that women do. Women also become intoxicated longer one week before and after their menstrual cycle, she said.

Skop led a scenario where three students chose their gender, size, and amount of drinks taken in a certain period of time. The hypothetical 170-pound man, 190-pound man, and 160-pound woman all had four drinks within two hours. Following a BAC chart, Skop determined that the BAC level of the men were slightly below 0.06% while the woman was at 0.08%.

To stabilize one’s own BAC level, Skop recommended always eating before drinking alcohol, consuming lots of water before, during, and after drinking, not drinking more than three alcoholic beverages an hour, avoiding carbonated drinks-as they speed up the intoxication process-and never mixing medication with alcohol because it negates the medication’s effects and could cause liver damage.

Smoking marijuana when drinking alcohol, Skop warned, can double a persons BAC level. Other drugs such as cocaine can also have an effect.

When someone starts using drugs on a regular basis, Skop said there are three different ways to identify the addiction: dependency, when the body physically needs that substance in order to go through daily routines; abuse, when the purpose is to intentionally get back at family or friends by taking drugs; and misuse, when the individual uses drugs to grow more tolerant of problems in their lives.

In order to help people realize that drugs or alcohol are taking over their lives, the best approach is to say what is noticeable rather than being judgmental. Try saying ‘I notice that you’ve been doing poorly in school ever since you started drinking’ instead of ‘I think you’re an alcoholic.’ Another approach is to offer resources such as Alcohol and Addiction Care (www.adcare.com) or Addiction Recovery Management Services ([email protected]). A free resource is Smart Recovery (www.smartrecovery.org).