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More college women treated for drunkenness Paramedics noting trend over past 2 years

Growing numbers of college-age women are requiring medical attention for consuming too much alcohol, a trend demonstrated both in statistics and observations by the Amherst Fire Department.

“Just in the time I’ve been here, I’ve seen an increase in the number of females we transport (to the hospital) as a result of alcohol,” said Fire Chief Walter “Tim” Nelson, who came to Amherst in March 2010.

So far this fall, on the three college campuses in Amherst, there have been 43 women and 32 men brought to Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton in intoxicated states.

“It seems like a disproportionate number of young females we’re picking up,” Nelson said.

This continues a pattern that Nelson first noticed last spring, when between March 9, which was just before spring break, and April 30, the last major party weekend before graduation, 32 women were brought to the hospital for alcohol use. During that same period 18 men were taken by ambulance to the hospital.

Nelson said the department first began tracking these calls by gender last fall, when evidence suggested that the ambulance personnel were seeing more young women. These included both those who needed hospital attention as well as others who could be treated for their impairments at the scene by ambulance crews or given a safe place to recover.

The Fire Department, along with Amherst and UMass police and the Dean of Students office at UMass, meet every Monday to discuss issues affecting the community, many related to off-campus behavior of students. Nelson said the question of why more women are requiring treatment for overconsumption of alcohol than men is a frequent topic of conversation.

He said it could mean they are drinking more, but it also may be due to physiological differences between the genders, he said. Nelson speculated that there may also be reluctance on the part of men to call for medical assistance unless they or their friends have serious injuries, such as those suffered in a fight.

Part of the rise in ambulance transports related to alcohol use is attributable to changing procedures the department must follow, said Assistant Chief Donald McKay.

“Pre-hospital protocols have changed to erring on the side of caution,” McKay said. The days of allowing a heavily intoxicated person to return to friends after a medical call has been initiated are over. “Sleeping it off” is not an option, he said.

“We don’t know whether the person is going to crash,” he said.

Still, the Fire Department has instituted measures to reduce the number of transports needed.

For instance, at the Mullins Center during certain events, a triage center is set up. McKay said Cooley Dickinson Hospital is informed so officials there can prepare for an influx of intoxicated patients or people overdosing on drugs, but the hope is that most people can be assisted by the paramedics at the scene.

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