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UA's alcohol education program reaches out to high school students



The Buzz, a UA program, is expanding its reach to other schools to provide alcohol education in a fun and interactive way.

The Buzz was created for UA students in 2010 and within three years had expanded to Northern Arizona University. The Buzz manual was also recently sold to Northern State University in South Dakota for about $1,500, giving the university permission to use it for two years.

“We just finished up the process by which we can get the program out on a national level,” said David Salafsky, director of health promotion and prevention services. “I think given the fact that alcohol is such a big issue, students obviously don’t want a program that they don’t find fun, interesting or engaging. I think the program has a lot of potential because we put those things together, and there are very few programs of its kind out there.”

Campus Health Service is looking into reaching out to high schools to expand The Buzz as a college prep course.

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By Michaela Kane / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Michaela Kane / The Daily Wildcat Spencer Gorin, the creator of the Buzz Alcohol Education Program at the University of Arizona, poses in his office on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013. The Buzz program is looking to expand its reach across the UA campus this year.

“I like to think of The Buzz being utilized as college prep for alcohol education because sometimes I think when you get here, it’s a little too late,” said Spencer Gorin, creator of The Buzz and health educator at Campus Health. “Usually your first social bonding event when you arrive on campus is centered on drinking alcohol for a lot of students.”

Gorin has already visited high schools, bringing The Buzz with him to help prepare high school seniors for college. On May 1, he visited Kids at Hope, a non-profit organization seeking to empower youth and communities in Phoenix.

Instead of using traditional tactics, such as lecturing students, some say The Buzz brings a new way of educating students on alcohol and risk reduction.

“It’s a fun way to learn about alcohol,” said Lee Ann Hamilton, assistant director of health promotion and preventive services. “It ties in with risk reduction because a lot of people are going to choose to drink … so our approach is not an abstinence-only kind of approach, but if you’re going to choose to drink, here are some things to know to stay safer and avoid injuries and negative consequences.”

The inspiration for the program came through seeing the figures of how many students are harmed by alcohol each year, Gorin said.

“I was blown away,” Gorin said. “I had no idea about the sheer
numbers of deaths of college students.”

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, there were approximately 189,000 emergency room visits by persons under age 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol in 2010.According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 10,000 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2010 — that is one crash every 51 minutes.

“To me, that’s inspiring because I care about people, and I don’t want to see that happen here,” Gorin said.

There are various games that students play incorporated in The Buzz program to learn about alcohol and the consequences it can bring. These games include UA Fact Finder, a game show-style format where students answer questions related to alcohol, and Moderation Ball, which involves throwing zany objects around the room while people simulate various degrees of intoxication, Salafsky explained.

“The games become a metaphor for life,” Gorin said. “That’s how I’ve always viewed games because that’s the most natural way we learn — through play … Fun will forge cooperation quicker than any other human dynamic other than catastrophe. So, other than working in crisis, I go for fun.”

Although it is perceived that almost every college student drinks, 37 percent of UA students didn’t drink in the past 30 days and 60 percent of those who are drinking have four or fewer drinks when they party, according to Salafsky.

“If you choose to do alcohol, make sure you do the alcohol and the alcohol doesn’t do you — meaning that you’re staying in control, smart, safe and considerate about your use,” Gorin said.

-Follow Shannon Higgins @_ShannonH_


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