Underage binge: Drinking leads Fort Collins student to the edge, back
230 intoxicated minors treated at PVH in 2010
10:52 PM, October 1, 2011
October 2, 2011 (Paper Edition)
He abstained through high school, but the freedom and peer pressure of college eased Jed Kellemeyer down a spiraling path of peppermint-schnapps shots and vodka-Red Bull cocktails.
He grew up in Fort Collins, where hundreds of alcohol-related visits each year are made to the Poudre Valley Hospital emergency room.
EMERGENCY ROOM VISITS
Poudre Valley Hospital emergency-room visits
> 2010: 50,868
> 2009: 50,105
> 2008: 46,530
Alcohol-related ER visits (percent of total)
> 2010: 2,452 (4.8)
> 2009: 2,241 (4.5)
> 2008: 2,259 (4.9)
Alcohol-related ER visits for those younger than
21 (percent of all alcohol-related visits)
> 2010: 230 (9.4)
> 2009: 218 (9.7)
> 2008: 282 (12.5)
At age 19, Kellemeyer moved in with friends and started drinking socially while pursuing a criminal justice degree at Front Range Community College.
Like most underage drinkers, he did his drinking at parties, where there were no licensed bartenders to cut off people from overindulging.
"Some people would get so drunk, they'd just pass out ... in the bathroom, bathtub, living-room floor," he said of the parties.
The notorious August 27 back-to-school megaparty west of the Colorado State University campus where thousands of people partied, resulted in 10 ambulance transports, most of which were alcohol-related.
Many of those at the party were underage drinkers.
Though many were surprised by this number, data shows the calls for over-indulging young people isn't so rare.
In 2010, about 230 emergency-room visits to Poudre Valley Hospital involved underage drinking in Fort Collins.
Kellemeyer didn't get into trouble with alcohol while underage. His legal troubles started four months after his 21st birthday.
> He drove drunk,
> hit a tree and
> ended up behind bars with a blood-alcohol
> concentration of .258, "triple the limit,"
He dropped out of school, and the daily drinking continued. He lost his job and was hospitalized in September 2010 because his liver wasn't processing alcohol quickly enough, and he was getting fluid in his lungs. By New Year's 2011, his money had run out.
Then came withdrawal symptoms: numbness, hallucinations, hearing voices, shakes, sweats and sleeplessness.
"It was weird," he said. "It was crazy."
Inebriated people often are taken to a detox center in Greeley, because the service isn't readily available in Fort Collins.
Kellemeyer's New Year's withdrawals resulted in a trip there.
He said the events led him to give up alcohol completely, and two hospital trips left him "scared straight."
"I was just at such a dark place, at such a bad place at the end of the drinking," he said.
He said his college didn't offer him alcohol-abuse services beyond occasional DUI-awareness events. A spokesperson for Front Range Community College did not immediately return a voicemail regarding the issue.
CSU this year has made it mandatory for all freshmen and all transfers younger than 23 to complete a multiday class that focuses on drinking.
"If they don't complete it, they won't be able to register for the next semester," said Jody Donovan, Colorado State University dean of students.
She said the 2004 death of CSU freshman Samantha Spady, who died with a BAC of .436, "rocked our campus dramatically," but most of the students from that time have left the campus.
"A lot of students are forgetting about the dangers" of alcohol consumption, Donovan said.
At the megaparty, nobody was cited with underage drinking despite its thousands of young attendees and a strong police presence. In that case, police reports indicated the priority was clearing people out of the apartment complex without sparking a riot.
In 2010, Fort Collins Police Services issued 402 minor-in-possession citations. Most of them (48) were in August, as students returned to campus.
Fort Collins police officer Kyle Bendzsa said police will cite underage drinkers anywhere from a bar to a house party to a street. But they won't be contacted unless they're attracting attention or appear obviously younger than 21.
In Colorado, police need only observe the signs - odor, slurred speech, poor balance, etc. - to cite someone for minor-in-possession (or consumption) of alcohol. But police usually don't have time to check every person at a 50-person party that gets busted.
On campus, the CSU Police Department recorded 228 underage alcohol contacts in 2010, which was up slightly from the previous year.
At the University of Colorado in Boulder, the number of underage MIPs has increased each of the past five years, from 451 in 2007 to 937 in 2010.
Unlike CSU, the CU Police Department data includes on- and off-campus citations, but commander Robert Axmacher said most of those incidents were on-campus.