Stat Check: Off to a Safe Spring Break

With spring break just a day away, I am more than ready to relax for a week and ignore almost all responsibilities. That being said, I was curious as to how many people also relax during spring break and what consequences that can have.

Spring break has been referred to as “a week of non-stop fun, socializing, and going to different events,” however, “things can quickly turn deadly,” according to Forbes contributor, Robert Glatter. During the week, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reported that the average male intakes 18 drinks per day and the average female 10. For those of us who already forgotten our freshmen AlcoholEdu course, binge drinking is classified as five or more drinks within two hours for men and four or more within the same time period for women.

While some college students may disregard these numbers, perhaps using personal experience as a “better” indicator, it should be recognized that over 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 are reported as dead each school year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, according to Forbes. When in the body, high levels of alcohol reduce a person’s automatic, involuntary breathing; sometimes, this goes as far as stopping the person’s breathing altogether. Moreover, the gag reflex can become impaired meaning when an inebriated person vomits, they asphyxiate on his or her own throw up. This is not quite the pretty picture of spring break we were all imagining.

“Sometimes the spring break mentality causes people to overdo it,” Sharlynn Daun Barnett, a Wellness Education Services Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Prevention specialist, said. “They drink more in a shorter period of time because they have more time on their hands or because they play drinking games and don’t have a choice – you drink if you win and you drink if you lose.”

As Barnett explained, the extremes of drinking are heightened spring break. This increase leads to more unplanned and unprotected sex, trouble with the police and injuries. The U.S. Department of State says, “Alcohol is involved in the vast majority of arrests, accidents, violent crimes and deaths suffered by American tourists in Cancun.” These statistics may be grim heading into our week of fun, but better to think about them now, rather then when it is too late.

When comparing college students to individuals not enrolled in higher education, it was found that students are much more likely to report binge or heavy drinking than non-students, according to Aaron White, the program director for Underage and College Drinking Research at the NIAA.

The problem, as I see it, is society’s view on the weeklong vacation. How many movies show massive hoards of college students completely incapacitated on the beaches in Florida or Mexico? Too many. The stereotype has been drilled into our heads since before we applied to college. In 2014, The Century Council, a national not-for-profit and a leader in the fight against underage drinking, conducted a national survey of college students ages 18 to 22 and found that 58 percent of college students don’t think the media accurately portrays how students spend their time during spring break. Moreover, the American Medical Association (AMA) conducted a poll and found that 84 percent of individuals believe that the media’s images of college girls partying during spring break is directly related to “females’ reckless behavior.” A higher number, 86 percent, believed that these images contribute to dangerous behaviors by men towards women.

Next week, it doesn’t matter whether you drink or abstain: society has painted a picture of spring break that often leads to dangerous situations for all party-going individuals. Make college memories in such a way that you’ll be alive to tell the tale.

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