BY BETTE DEWING
“Except for drunk driving, the alcohol factor is seldom indicted in violent disputes, assaults and other crimes of violence. Also suicide, But all that deserves another column or volume.”
This from my recent “Olympian Lessons of the Very First Kind” column is now most tragically and immediately kept by the stabbing death late last month of Anthony Nazaire, the 19-year-old Ithaca College student from Brooklyn. It happened during a brawl at a fraternity party. Thankfully, another stabbing victim student will survive. Unlike Anthony’s loved ones, his family will be spared a heartbreaking and enduring loss. And the words of Anthony’s distraught family need to be stressed and publicly remembered and especially at Ithaca College: “the pain this person has caused this family is unbelievable.”
Again, this enduring and unimaginable pain must get out and stay out there – to offer comfort and support, but above all, to help prevent such crimes — to stop the alcohol overuse which triggers these abominable – actions done “under-the-influence.”
Recall also how Anthony was a second-year business administration student on a full scholarship to the university. So much to be remembered how a serious student and a caring person like Anthony can be a victim of all-too-commonplace campus drunkenness. It should not be given a pass — especially in “places of higher learning.” Indeed, required courses on the myriad dangers of alcohol use and to physical health, as well as on how younger brains can be permanently damaged by early binge drinking, are all long overdue.
Older brains can also lose debilitating volume by longtime, everyday and even relatively moderate drinking; even more so when it’s immoderate. Yes, there are studies that most unfortunately are rarely noted by neurologists. And I’m getting sidetracked again from the original promise to expose the too-little-acknowledged link between alcohol and anti-social and criminal actions, which again would likely not take place were the person sober. We all know about DWI — driving while intoxicated — but not about other lawless or anti-social actions committed while intoxicated — under the influence of a drug which disables the brain’s judgment/conscience center.
This is not to excuse such behavior but to help prevent it. The facts need to become common knowledge.
Consider these few statistics from the National Institute of Alcohol and Drug Abuse regarding college students aged 18 to 24:
• 1,825 died from alcohol related unintentional injuries, including vehicular crashes.
• 696,000 students are assaulted by another student who has been drinking,
• 97,006 students report alcohol-related sexual assaults or date rape
As you know, mothers of victims organized the now-well-known group Mothers Against Drunk Driving group (MADD). A group against drunk violence is just as needed. Ah, but the overall need is an all-out movement against irresponsible drinking, which statistics show is a factor in so many homicides, physical assaults, including the sexual kind, domestic abuse and neglect and suicide – not to mention and just highly regrettable non-violent and risk-taking behavior.
The city’s former medical examiner, Dr. Michael Baden, said “Everywhere medical examiners look, whether it’s automobile accidents, drownings, homicides, suicides, falls or fires, alcohol is involved.” A large percentage of the prison population had been drinking before the crimes for which they were convicted were committed, Baden and other experts have said. And weekend murders and assaults almost invariably are alcohol-related.
Another story which appeared in the same edition as the Anthony Nazaire news piece was titled, “Bloody Sunday 13 Shot, Two Dead.” No doubt, alcohol was involved in this street gang-related violence which should also be stopped – the alcohol trigger should be denounced along with gun and gang violence. Whatever happened to Harlem Mothers Against Violence?
Again, Alcoholics Anonymous group’s number is 212-647-1680. Everyone, especially policy makers, should attend these open meetings to hear the real life “before and after” stories. These are an invaluable resource about which infinitely more must be said — but surely at Ithaca College and all places of learning, including places of worship. And don’t forget online and regular media. It can be done if enough of us try.