Archive for Friday, March 13, 2009

Alcohol cases a daily event at hospital

LMH treats more than 400 per year

March 13, 2009


Alcohol cases a daily event at hospital

Alcohol is unfortunately a key factor in many emergency situations involving college students. Death from alcohol is rare, but alcohol-related trips to the emergency room are not. Enlarge video

Hundreds gather in memory of Jason Wren

Family, friends and loved ones of 19-year-old Jason Wren gathered in his memory on the lawn of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house. Enlarge video

Be prepared

The signs of alcohol poisoning, according to the Student Health Services Wellness Resource Center at Kansas University, are:

• Unconscious or passed out and cannot be awakened. • Vomiting. • Seizures. • Irregular, slow breathing. Eight breaths or less per minute. • Cold, clammy, pale or bluish skin.

If your friend is experiencing any of these symptoms while intoxicated, call 911. Then, stay with the friend until help arrives.


• Leave your friend alone. • Let your friend “sleep it off.” • Allow your friend to drive. • Give your friend food, liquid or medication. • Encourage your friend to walk, run or exercise. • Put your friend in a cold shower.

St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness and spring break could give Lawrence residents an excuse to drink more than usual during the next week.

Green beer will be flowing, and Hawk bombs — a mixture of vodka, Red Bull and cranberry juice — will be downed.

But health professionals urge common sense. Drinking too much can lead to a trip to the emergency room, or even death. Jason Wren, 19, of Lawrence, was found dead Sunday after a night of reportedly drinking margaritas, beer and whiskey. An official cause of death is pending toxicology results.

Death from accidental alcohol poisoning is rare. Between 2000 and 2007, 52 Kansans died of such a cause, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. More than half of the victims were between the ages of 35 and 54. Five were between the ages of 25 and 34, and fewer than five were between the ages of 15 and 24.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital’s emergency room treats more than 400 alcohol-related cases per year. That number is tripled when alcohol is considered the secondary cause of the ER trip. For example, someone fell and hit his head as a result of drinking.

“It’s a huge problem, and we are spending millions of dollars a year just treating the direct causes of alcohol in our emergency room in Lawrence,” said John Drees, LMH community education specialist.

He said 25 percent of the emergency room patients are people between the ages of 18 and 22. About once a week, doctors find patients who were left at the ER doorstep.

Dr. Chris Jenson, an emergency room doctor, said such action only hurts the patient because doctors don’t have information: Where has the person been? How much have they drunk? What have they consumed?

“We are not here to get you or bust you. We are here to save lives,” Jenson said.

Unfortunately, he said LMH treats alcohol-related cases every day, but they peak on the weekends and around holidays such as St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween and New Year’s Eve.

“In our society, alcohol is heavily advertised. It is a big part of culture. There’s the whole tailgating scene. But, the extreme levels are dangerous — very dangerous,” Drees said. “What people don’t realize is that $10 or $12 is all it would take to buy enough alcohol to provide a lethal dose for some people.”

How much is too much?

Everybody handles alcohol differently. How much alcohol might lead to an overdose depends on a number of factors, including age, weight, gender, experience with alcohol, metabolism, prescription medicine and health conditions.

“If we give an inexperienced 21-year-old 21 shots on her 21st birthday — which they actually do — some of them might do OK, some of them are going to pass out and a select few are going to die,” Drees said. “That’s why they have to be so careful.”

Often, drinking starts out as fun.

“Alcohol is a depressant on many levels. Many people initially get excited when they are drunk and that’s because it impairs your inhibition,” Jenson said. “As a result, you do things you normally wouldn’t do and sometimes you don’t make the best decisions.”

In the end, alcohol slows down your neurological system and impairs your breathing, slows down your metabolism and can even lower your body’s core temperature.

“So, there’s a lot of bad things that happen at once,” Jenson said. “Depending on the amount of alcohol you’ve ingested, you may experience some to all of those things.”

He said if people are alert, can walk and talk properly and are just experiencing nausea and vomiting, they easily could be helped without a trip to the ER. If they are “sleeping off” a hangover or have “passed out,” they need to be checked every 10 to 15 minutes initially until they are feeling better. They should be easy to be awakened and able to carry a conversation.

If not, seek medical help immediately.

“That’s when it becomes dangerous, and there can be bad outcomes,” Jenson said.

Sobering statistics

Jen Brinkerhoff, director of prevention at DCCCA, which provides substance abuse services in Douglas County, encourages parents to talk to their children about the dangers of alcohol.

“You need to start the conversation in grade school before it’s even a factor because we know the first time a kid uses alcohol in Kansas is around age 13 or so,” she said. “Kids think they are invincible because they don’t have that ability to really think that could happen.”

According to a 2007 survey by the Centers for Disease Control, 19 percent of Kansas ninth-graders reported having five or more drinks of alcohol within a couple of hours at least once. Twenty-five percent of high school seniors said they drove a vehicle after drinking alcohol.

In 2007, drunken driving crashes claimed 118 lives in Kansas and accounted for 5 percent of all crashes.

According to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, 24 percent of offenders were suspected of using alcohol at the time of rape during the past five years in Lawrence.

Drees said drinking isn’t going to end. He just hopes this recent death serves as a wake-up call for others.

“It’s really gotten out of hand, and there’s a lot of suffering. They are trying to have fun, yet there’s a lot of suffering going on. It is changing lives, and it is affecting some people permanently.”


JohnSWren 9 years, 3 months ago

My brother has suggested that friends of his son Jason Wren "put down their glass" and stop drinking in memory of him. Undoubtedly some of these friends will find they can't stop and stay stopped.

It's estimated that 1 out of 10 are alcoholics, and that only 1 out of 35 alcoholics who start drinking will be able to eventually stop drinking. The other 34 sooner or later will have a tragic end to their life. Alcoholism is a killer disease.

One solution is to just never start. That's the choice Mark DeMoss has made. "One important reason for choosing not to drink at all, I see now, is my son's life. When he begins to face his decisions about alcohol, and he will, in the way that others' choices have become my life's touchstones, maybe my choice can be one of his." Chapter 21, "Here's to Not Drinking at All," in DeMoss's The Little Red Book of Wisdom.

But what about those who have already started drinking, and in Jason's memory want to "just put it down." Can they if the person trying to put it down is part of the 1 out of 10?

A couple of years ago I had lunch with a very good friend of mine and he told me that he'd quit drinking. He went on and on about how much better his life was, and asked if he'd like me to talk with a relative of mine who he knew I was worried about because of her drinking. "No, let's wait a while and see how it goes for you first." It wasn't long until he was not only drinking heavily again himself, but also buying my relative her drinks when we all went up to Blackhawk together.

Just putting it down can cause other problems to develop, often problems that eventually drive the person back to drinking.

So putting it down in Jason's memory is one thing. Keeping it down is another. For those who want help putting it down and keeping it down, free help can be found at

For those who have an underage or other problem drinker in their life, there is also free help available at

bangaranggerg 9 years, 3 months ago

I finally found a statistic to show smoking marijuana is more dangerous than drinking alcohol. Apparently, you are more likely to be shot in the chest when cops raid your apartment and you stand up too fast, unarmed, when they break down your door because there is a marijuana odor in the hallway. Please read this interesting study-

verity 9 years, 3 months ago

Thank you, Mr. Wren, for trying to make something positive out of this tragedy.

Susan Lee 9 years, 3 months ago

Mr. Wren, my heart goes out to you and your family at the loss of your beloved Jason. There, but for the grace of God, go ANY of us matter what the values taught and lived at home.

I find it absolutely incredulous that the University feels that lowering the drinking age to 18 is a positive move. In August, 2008, the University of Kansas joined the list sponsoring the Amethyst Initiative.

Can you imagine the number of alcohol poisonings if the age were lowered??

My children were all heavily recruited to attend KU, and on our initial visit we were taken to the Nunemaker Center , where special publications and study space is allocated for use by those students deemed Kansas Scholars. The center closes at 5 on Friday, and opens at 4 p.m. on Sunday. When I asked the elderly hostess why the building was closed every weekend, she looked at me like I was a moron and said "of course it's not open on weekends - everyone is partying."

It is this attitude of complicity which I find totally disgusting. Is the school also turning its back on other crimes such as theft and sexual attack? Of course not. For some reason it is erronously believed that underage drinking and the misuse of alcohol are merely "rites of passage". So untrue.

I know I will be blasted for these statements - alcohol use and abuse is important to many in Lawrence. It takes no intelligence or special talent to get hammered; I find it difficult to understand the allure.

I so admire the Wren family for speaking out and working so hard to bring about positive change at this time of their terrible loss. Your family continues to be in my prayers. If all the time and energy put into illegally procuring, drinking and cleaning up alcohol messes could be harnessed for good can you imagine the wonderful results?

alm77 9 years, 3 months ago

We don't drink often, but when we do we've instituted the one-beverage-per-hour rule at our house. Do we always stick to it perfectly? No, but it's a good guideline to avoid social stupidity as well as health problems. And it works, providing you don't start drinking at noon.

We used this recent death to talk to our kids about drinking and what can happen if someone has "a few margaritas, 10-12 beers" and a is drinking straight from a bottle of Jack. We also told them how we avoid problems with our house rules so that they would get an idea of how we drink responsibly as well as a comparison of our behavior as opposed to this tragic scenario. Hopefully, when they are 21 they'll have similar guidelines if they do decide to drink.

Confrontation 9 years, 3 months ago

I also don't understand why people find it absolutely necessary to drink. If you have to drink to have a good time, then your life is pretty darn pathetic.

SassyGirl 9 years, 3 months ago

Am I the only one that noticed the discrepancy in the stats?

Between 2000 and 2007, 52 Kansans died of such a cause, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. More than half of the victims were between the ages of 35 and 54. Five were between the ages of 25 and 34, and fewer than five were between the ages of 15 and 24. 25 percent of the emergency room patients are people between the ages of 18 and 22.

Looks to me like about 90% are over the age of 35. Sounds as though it's the parents need a good talking to. And what are the ages of the other 75% that show up at LMH?

I don't mean to make light of a sad situation but please don't be blind to the facts. And the facts are that it is the adults who are more apt to die of alcohol. And here is another fact that most people don't want to hear, that is that most people who get a DUI are, you guessed it, are of the same age group of 35 to 54.

This is not just a young society problem - This is an entire societal problem - Young and Old alike.

davidsmom 9 years, 3 months ago

Confrontation - My sentiment exactly.

Hoots 9 years, 3 months ago

Good post redcoalcarpet. The studies being done are proving your point. I saw it happen first hand as a high school senior. I was 18 and allowed to drink 3.2 beer when the law changed. I was grandfathered out before my 19th birthday. Overnight kids drinking habits changed. Kids no longer sought out 3.2 beer. They instead went for the most bang for the buck and started drinking hard liquor. The social drinking scene went from kids having a few beers to getting falling down drunk. If anything the 21 drinking age had a serious negative impact.

Jack Martin 9 years, 3 months ago

Good afternoon,

I wanted to correct a statement made earlier regarding the Amethyst Initiative. The University of Kansas has NOT joined this initiative.

KU abstains from effort to lower drinking age

Thank you.

Jack Martin University Communications

local_support 9 years, 3 months ago

Oh for sure Fat because the recipe for a Hawk Bomb isn't just a Google away.

Deja Coffin 9 years, 3 months ago

Confrontation, sometimes I feel like I'm the only 25 year old who feels the same way as you! Granted I did party while I was younger and now am married with children so I'm not in that social scene. But really, why is it all my non-married friends (and some married one) think it's super cool to post pics of themselves on facebook completely wasted and looking a hot mess? I guess it goes right along with this whole being/looking like a whore is cool scene. Maybe I'm the only 25 year old going on 60 but still, isn't there anything else to do?

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