Mar 282005
 
Authors: Hallie Woods

It was half past midnight.

The liquor burned as it trickled down his throat. His stomach felt sick, as he had consumed 11 shots in a within the hour.

It was his 21st birthday and he had 10 more shots to go.

"The last thing I remember about my 21st birthday is the 12th shot," said Aaron Schoonmaker, a junior technical journalism major. "I blacked out and my friends helped me back to bed after I finished the 'power hour.'"

When midnight hits on a 21st birthday, some students want to take on the challenge of consuming 21 shots within approximately an hour, a practice nicknamed the "power hour." Because bars across the nation often close at 1 or 2 a.m., many new 21-year-olds do not have more than an hour or two to participate in this activity. However, the "power hours" have led to deaths across the nation.

But North Dakota has started to take action.

House Bill Number 1383 is awaiting legislative action in the North Dakota state legislature. The bill would allow 21-year-olds to legally drink after 3 a.m. on their birthdays. With most bars closing at 1 or 2 a.m., this would discourage people from doing a "power hour" and binge drinking at the bar, hopefully preventing them from blacking out, illness and even death.

Binge drinking greatly affects the body, according to CSU's Alcohol and Drug Education Center's Web site (www.colostate.edu/Depts/CFDAE/). It inhibits long-term memory as well as suppresses the REM sleep cycle, making people tired even after sleeping. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system, making reaction time as well as motor skills slower.

Under the influence of alcohol, the reproductive system is inhibited and sexual dysfunction can occur. In some cases, it can also cause impotence. In high doses, binge drinking can cause death. However, all these effects can be prevented.

With the recent advancements to attempt a stop to alcohol abuse in Fort Collins and Colorado, the reduction of 21st birthday bar binges may be the next step for Colorado or even the CSU Alcohol Task Force.

"(Prevention of power hours) is not currently an issue in the task force or the Colorado Legislature, but I think it's very possible," said Amber O'Connor, communications for Lt. Gov. Norton, who was chairman of the CSU Alcohol Task Force. "If it proves to be instrumental in saving lives, it may be something for Colorado and the task force to look into."

O'Connor said that through research, the alcohol task force found out that 14,000 students die each year in alcohol-related deaths. Responsible drinking is a large issue for the task force and state legislature in an attempt to stop these deaths.

"We would support any proposal that would lead to responsible drinking," said Rita Davis, press information manager for Fort Collins Police Services.

However, Davis believes that enforcing the bill could prevent difficulties. It may be easy to stop 21-year-olds from doing a "power hour" in a bar, but nothing will stop students from purchasing liquor and consuming the 21 shots at home. Also, it may be complicated for bartenders to spot newly-turned 21-year-olds.

O'Connor said that the task force and the legislature often base their laws or recommendations on the success of precedents in other states.

"We are willing to do anything to save lives. Fourteen thousand deaths are too much. One death is too much," O'Connor said.

 Posted by at 6:00 pm

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