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Spring Break and Alcohol, a Potentially Dangerous Mix
3/6/2014

A week of beaches, parties and bottomless cocktails. This is a picture of spring break for many college students in the US. Although it’s portrayed in the media as a week of non-stop fun, spring break can quickly turn dangerous.

The greatest dangers are associated with binge drinking. About half of all college students binge drink, and during spring break it seems to go to the extreme. One study conducted by the American College of Health found that the average male reported drinking 18 drinks per day and the average female reported up to 10 drinks per day during spring break; well above the safe levels of alcohol consumption.

What is considered binge drinking?
For a man, binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks within two hours. For a woman, it’s consuming four or more drinks within two hours. It’s less for women because women are generally smaller than men, so it takes less alcohol to produce a high blood alcohol level and because alcohol doesn’t break down as quickly in women as it does in men.

The dangers of binge drinking
1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each school year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries. One of the biggest dangers is alcohol poisoning. Extremely high levels of alcohol shut down the automatic, involuntary drive to breathe—people with alcohol poisoning die because they stop breathing. High levels of alcohol associated with binge drinking can also turn off the gag reflex, which is dangerous because alcohol can lead to vomiting, which is far more dangerous without a gag reflex, because individuals can choke on their own vomit.

Signs of alcohol poisoning include slow and/or irregular breathing, vomiting, confusion and unconsciousness. If these are observed, the heavily intoxicated person should be taken to the emergency room immediately.

Binge drinking leads to other dangerous situations.
Every year, not just during spring break, thousands of kids are injured and 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries.

• Assault: More than 690,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.

• Sexual Abuse: More than 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.

• Injury: 599,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 receive unintentional injuries while under the influence of alcohol.

Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Stay safe!
Nobody wants to eliminate the fun of spring break, but safety should be top of mind.
• Know your limits when it comes to alcohol consumption
• Call 911 or go to an emergency room immediately if you suspect alcohol poisoning
• Stay hydrated
• Don’t accept drinks from strangers or leave your drink unattended
• Don’t drink and drive – have a designated driver or take a taxi or public transportation
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