New awareness program seeks to prevent alcohol poisoning among students

Kathleen Pizzo

California State University Chancellor Timothy White announced in August his hopes to bring an alcohol education program called Aware Awake Alive to all 23 CSU campuses.

The program will be another tool for identifying and acting on the symptoms of alcohol poisoning.

After Carson Starkey, an 18-year-old Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo student died of alcohol poisoning in 2008, his parents appealed to the CSU Board of Trustees to create the non-profit program that aims to prevent college alcohol-related deaths.

“We’ve been proactive since we learned about it at a CSU conference last spring,” said Amelia Stults, a health educator at the Wellness Center. “Any alcohol-related education now includes Aware Awake Alive.”

Stults said the program will be incorporated into the other alcohol awareness programs on campus to create one standardized program.

The program has already included student athletes and Greek organizations on campus.

The program focuses on building peer relationships and educating students to recognize alcohol poisoning and take action.

Biochemistry major Katlyn Lewis, 23, has been at Sac State for the past five years and said students under the drinking age tend to have unrealistic expectations when it comes to alcohol.

“I think college students find it funny when they go too far in having to throw up or blackout,” Lewis said.

She said underage students sometimes lack the ability to take dangerous situations seriously.

While Sac State has had zero alcohol-related deaths within the past five years, Chico State has had five alcohol related deaths since 2000.

“I bet other CSUs have the exact same alcohol awareness programs we do, but we don’t have as (many) alcohol-related incidents because we have a smaller Greek population,” said Robby Gill, a 19-year-old government major and fraternity member.

Though there have been few alcohol-related deaths at Sac State specifically, Gill said he believes there are still many underage students drinking.

CSU spokesperson Erik Fallis said because college students tend not fully realize the implications of excessive drinking so dangerous incidents occur.

“Students think alcohol tolerance is a lot higher than it is and they try to compete with those around them,” Fallis said. “They have seen incorrect images and have incorrect ideas and that’s what [CSUs] try to address with these programs.”

When students see their peers enter a dangerous level of intoxication, Awake Aware Alive encourages them to take action.

“I know that students can see when someone has had too much to drink,” Lewis said. “I just don’t think they see it as alcohol poisoning,”

Fallis said Awake Aware Alive and similar programs give students a more realistic idea of what alcohol consumption entails and also gives students the tools they need to be responsible enough to prevent alcohol-related deaths.

“It’s an absolute tragedy any time we lose a student to an alcohol-related incident,” Fallis said. “We’ve been very concerned with making sure students have the information they need.”