At the so-called “social ivy,” the saying "work hard, play hard” is part of Penn culture. The newly formed Penn Drug and Alcohol Peer Advisors are seeking to redefine our conception of “play,” or at the very least, make sure students do so smartly.
Completely separate from the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives, Penn DAPA is a student-run organization looking to reduce the harm caused by substance abuse. Within the past year, several students have transformed the Penn Drug and Alcohol Resource Team into this new club, modeled on initiatives being taken at peer institutions, including Harvard and Dartmouth.
For the academic year of 2014 to 2015, Penn DAPA has established three areas of priority — prescription painkiller abuse, binge drinking and addiction. As a club, the DAPAs decided that these three topics are plaguing not only the Penn campus but the general American population as well.
“[Binge drinking is] the one that we think is probably the hardest to address just because it is a part of student culture but it is also a tough personal decision for people to make,” DAPA co-president and Wharton sophomore Theodore Caputi said.
Caputi also stressed the notion of simple strategies to implement while drinking, such as counting drinks or making sure friends are accountable for one another.
However, Caputi and Program Coordinator Aman Goyal added, there is a large population at Penn that does not drink or rarely does so. According to the AOD, 4,000 Penn students drink twice or less per semester. Caputi and Penn DAPA would like to gather further information about substance use at Penn.
“One of our goals is to collect more accurate information about students on campus… to see if the trends have changed,” he said.
Additionally, Penn DAPA has begun holding events such as the Non-Drinker’s Social and has assumed responsibility of a faculty series on drug research. On Nov.11, Adolescent Communication Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center Dan Romer spoke on “The Challenges of Reducing Drug Abuse in College Youth.”
Next semester, Goyal hopes to see the DAPAs — after they receive formal training —visit the college houses to have open discussions about drug and alcohol usage, a program originated by Penn Drug and Alcohol Research Team . Goyal is also anticipating an intercollegiate symposium the DAPAs will attend at Harvard in February to discuss what initiatives various schools have started and what has been successful.
For Goyal, watching students like Caputi step up to address substance use has been very encouraging.
“It has been really exciting to see students who are interested in changing the climate a little bit, making it a little healthier, and a little more accessible for all types of people who choose not to drink or do it less so without judgment,” he said.
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