Student Support Services hosts Alcohol Abuse workshop
Support staff from the four Colleges and students in mentorship and leadership positions were involved in an education workshop on alcohol use and abuse.
The Workshop was organised by the College of Humanities Student Support Services with the guest speaker Ms Caro Smith of South Africans Against Drunk Driving (SADD).
The aim of the Workshop was to educate and create awareness on alcohol abuse and to relay the message to students on campus so that they are able to make well informed, responsible and safe decisions regarding drunk driving and the consumption of alcohol.
Smith said South Africa’s road accident and drunk driving statistics indicated that alcohol abuse was a major social problem and was a factor in more than half of vehicle fatalities in the country and 61% of pedestrian deaths.
She believes social attitudes in South Africa towards drunk driving still lag far behind the rest of the world.
Smith also recounted various drunk driving incidents such as the death of her 23-year-old son Chas Smit, lead guitarist and co-performer of South African acoustic band PLUSH, who was killed by a drunk driver on 18 September, 2005 while leaving a show in Pietermaritzburg.
Smith explained the meaning of Units of Alcohol (UOA), how they are measured and stressed that students needed to be made aware of this. ‘Each person metabolises alcohol at different rates and times. Women are affected more, quicker, and from smaller amounts of alcohol than men, so women need to drink less, and slower than men. It takes the body approximately an hour or more, to get rid of one unit. Water, coffee or energy drinks don’t work; only time gets rid of alcohol from the body.’
Smith further added that the brain experienced dynamic change during adolescence (ages 12-21) and alcohol could seriously damage long and short term growth process. ‘Students who binge drink can lose up to 10% of their brainpower and this could mean the difference between passing and failing. Even students who don’t drink shouldn’t succumb to peer pressure. We need to run these alcohol programmes at UKZN to create a sense of awareness and responsibility.’
As part of the Workshop, Mr Nkululeko Shabalala, who is a member of the student group UKZN Student Dynamics and third year Psychology student, volunteered to wear the “drunken goggles” that show how alcohol affects the body and the mind.
‘I couldn’t see clearly, I didn’t know what I was doing or where I was walking,’ said Shabalala. ‘It was scary and it put into perspective how much alcohol affects your judgement.’ With the information acquired during the Workshop, Shabalala hopes to inform other students within his organisation and get the word out about the effects of alcohol.
* Counselling and information about alcohol use and abuse and its effects are available at the College of Humanities Student Support Services as well as other College Student Support Services offices.
- Words and photographs by Melissa Mungroo