Ithaca College passed a Medical Amnesty Policy last year to encourage students to call for help in alcohol and drug related emergencies. The policy prevents you from getting in trouble for calling for medical assistance in alcohol poisoning and overdose situations. Being someone who has personal experience with using this policy, I’m surprised at how many students still don’t know it exists.
Last year the college’s chapter of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy brought the idea for the policy to school administrators with the help of the Student Government Association. After input from staff at Cornell University on the effectiveness of their MAP, the school agreed it was a good idea. By the time the proposal got to President Tom Rochon, it had the support of SSDP, SGA, Judicial Affairs, the Center for Health Promotion and Ithaca College Public Safety.
Last semester my friends were worried about me one weekend and were debating if they should call for help to take me to the hospital. At first, they decided it wasn’t worth the possibility of police involvement because we were all underage, and they thought that I could probably sleep it off. Luckily, one of my friends remembered the school recently passed the policy, and they decided to call for help. I was taken to the hospital where they treated me for alcohol poisoning.
When I was initially written up, the police came and told my friends that my case might qualify for the Medical Amnesty Policy, but it would have to be approved. I quickly got an email from the Office of Judicial Affairs and was told that my case would be approved under the policy as long as I completed the Brief Alcohol Screening Intervention for College Students program, a two-session program with the health educator at the college.
When I first heard about the policy I didn’t think I would be in a situation where I would have to use it. Now that I have though, I’m glad it’s in place and am grateful to the college for prioritizing the safety of students over punishment. Without a doubt, this policy has encouraged calls to help in many other situations similar to mine. Because the policy is successfully changing the paranoid culture of students who will choose to take part in drinking or drugs despite its illegality, I am convinced this policy will save lives.
According to the Center for Disease Control, 90 percent of drinking by people under 21 years old is in the form of binge drinking. This results in about 1,400 student deaths per year that are directly related to alcohol.
I’m glad my friends decided to call for help, and I don’t think they would have if the policy wasn’t in place. From this experience I’ve learned my limits and realized that I should not push them. Luckily, because of the Medical Amnesty Policy, I received the help I needed to stay alive and healthy. If any students find themselves in the same position my friends were in, I urge them to take advantage of the policy and make the call.
Zach Smyser is a sophomore philosophy major. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.