by Kathryn Willgus
“So You Think You Can Drink?” was an alcohol education program held Feb. 20. This program was presented for freshmen, partly as an extension of AlcoholEdu, an online program requirement for freshmen in their first semester. The program was also an option for Greek organizations’ new member alcohol education requirement. Dr. Jessica Siegel, Assistant Professor of Psychology, gave a presentation on the effects of alcohol in the body and the brain and reinforced safe drinking practices.
Dr. Siegel first addressed the effects that alcohol has on one’s brain. She opened her presentation explaining why people enjoy drinking alcohol and what the substance does to dopamine levels in the brain. She explained how drinking affects the frontal lobe, inhibiting one’s capacity for decision making and judgment skills. Dr. Siegel explained in scientific terms a blackout; where alcohol blocks proteins in the brain needed for memory formation. She addressed the effects on the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls many motor functions, and why any amount of alcohol makes it impossible for one to walk a straight line.
Dr. Siegel then concentrated on alcohol’s effects on the body. She explained the functions of the body as it processes alcohol. She spoke of many symptoms, such as slowed breathing and heart rate, and when these symptoms become dangerous, as signs of alcohol poisoning. She then discussed the effect that alcohol has on sexual drives and desires. Many freshmen boys snickered as Dr. Siegel explained a study in which men drinking alcohol had more desire to have sex, but physically, alcohol had inhibited their ability to do so. She talked about the concept of a hangover and how it represents one’s body having withdrawals from alcohol. Of all drugs, alcohol is the only drug that can have a fatal withdrawal.
At the end of the presentation, Dr. Siegel addressed some knowledge needed in order to practice safe drinking habits. She discussed the meaning of BAC, or blood alcohol content, literally being the percent of one’s blood that is made of alcohol. She went over standard drink sizes and examples of what a number of drinks would do to persons of certain size. She explained the dangers of alcohol poisoning, drunk driving, and unprotected sex and sexual assault. At the end of the program, there were prize drawings for gift cards to Stirling’s and the University Book Store.