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As TCU Case Focuses Attention on Drugs on Campus, Don't Forget About Booze

Drug arrests at Texas Christian University certainly have seized everybody's attention around the country. But surely it's not because people are shocked, shocked to find drugs on a college campus.

Probably has more to do with the close juxtaposition of the words "drug raid" and "Christian." But who cares why people are suddenly focused? Carpe the moment.

Drugs on campus are a serious issue, well worth scrutiny. I just hope at some point in all that scrutinizing, people find their way to the big one.


Not that cocaine and ecstasy and heroin and all the rest of them aren't on campus, but booze is so much bigger and more obvious a threat to the lives and health of college kids, you have to wonder sometimes why everybody would rather talk about other stuff.

Here in Dallas we happen to be home to what has become quite possibly the best available resource anywhere in the nation for information about booze on campus and, in particular, campus deaths from alcohol-based hazing. The Gordie Foundation, created by the parents of a Dallas kid killed by booze in a fraternity hazing incident at the University of Colorado in 2004, campaigns for campus alcohol awareness programs at schools across the country.

But the Gordie Foundation's website also serves as maybe the most convenient and authoritative place you can go for information about alcohol on campus and how it stacks up against illegal drugs as an issue.

Really stacks up. Stacks and stacks. It stacks up 650 percent higher. That's right. Six and a half times more college kids die of booze than of all other drugs combined, according to information available on the site.

And it's not their information. The stuff on this site is not the typical strident shrieky propaganda you get from the crazy crackdown groups. Click on some of the research available on the page, and you will come across things like a 2008 article from the Harvard School of Public Health reporting about a 14-year study with many scary findings.

The worst are about drinking on campus combined with driving -- 1,700 student deaths a year in alcohol-driving incidents. But, of course, drinking plays a huge role in unprotected sex, flunking out, all of the predictable things, as well.

What I found most unsettling about the findings was how little college kids know about short-term dangers of alcohol -- its ability to kill you, for example -- and the long-term effects on their lives. The study found, for example, that most heavy drinkers in college think they just like to have fun, but in fact one in 17 of them can be clinically diagnosed as alcoholic.

Alcoholic. That's like being addicted to heroin. Maybe worse, because it's so much easier to get away with.

I'm not saying people should not worry about illegal drugs on campus. The illegal ones are way worse than alcohol in one big way: They're illegal. A kid may drink himself out of school, but as long as he doesn't manslaughter anybody on the highway doing it, he won't wind up with a felony conviction. Can't guarantee the same for those kids at the school with "Christian" in its name over in Fort Worth.

The Gordie Foundation does not tell kids not to drink. It's way more pragmatic than that. In fact, it tells them how to drink. They hand out a printed card on campus with tips on how to keep yourself from going over the cliff while partying (pace yourself, eat first, etc.).

But there is also something chilling about those card, maybe because you can tell from reading them that the information on them is news. The card warns you, for example, about something it calls "PUBS," which works like this: Your buddy or your girlfriend or dorm-mate could be on the verge of death if he is puking while passed out; unresponsive to shaking; breathing in slow or shallow breaths or, more urgently, not at all; or has skin that has turned blue or some other wrong color, is clammy or cold.

Yeah. That's bad. Did we not know that? Right. We did not know that. That's why they printed the cards.

Here is all I am saying: If you really want to do something to save the lives of kids who die and screw up their lives on drugs at college, make sure while you're at it you remember to go after the big one.

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