Spring Break Safety

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By: Jeffrey Meyers, Certified Prevention Specialist

Activities can Bring Danger, Increased Risk

After a long winter, especially an Iowa winter, there is nothing more refreshing than warm temperatures, sunshine, and fresh clean air. Add to that time off, and you have a combination that can’t be beat. For many high school and college students, this describes Spring Break. It’s a time to refresh, unwind, and relax before the stress of school returns. Unfortunately, Spring Break has become nearly synonymous for some to mean binge drinking, drug use, and other risky activities that can transform a time for fun in to a time of danger.

When it comes to Spring Break, what perhaps is the greatest risk to students is binge drinking. Binge drinking simply means the consumption of excessive alcohol in a short amount of time. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), this translates in to about 5 drinks for men, and 4 drinks for women over the course of two hours. For a lot of college students, this is not difficult to reach.

Binge drinking, it turns out, especially in the college age demographic, is rather widespread. The NIAAA found that nearly half of all college students engage in binge drinking, an astounding number. Binge drinking during Spring Break is even more pronounced. Startlingly, 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,” levels which are unquestionably risky.

Binge drinking is dangerous, and for more than just a few reasons. Alcohol, as a depressant, has a litany of effects on the body. One extreme example is that of alcohol poisoning, which can occur with severe binge drinking. In this case the body’s nervous system can become so slowed down that breathing can stop all together, potentially leading to death. Alcohol has strong depressant effects, which slow the body’s rate of functioning, making it harder not only to process information, but also impairing fine motor skills and reflexes. It can also lead to vomiting, confusion and even bouts of unconsciousness. Longer term consequences can include high blood pressure, liver disease, and neurological damage.

While alcohol tends to get the bulk of attention during Spring Break, drug use also remains a problem. For some students, occasions like Spring Break can lead to experimentation with a number of substances. What seems to predominate during times like Spring Break is MDMA, also known by ‘Molly’ or Ecstasy. Often thought of as a party drug because of its widespread use during dance parties or raves, MDMA is a very dangerous substance that acts as a stimulate, inducing feelings of euphoria but also dehydrating the body, impairing the brain’s decision making process, and leading to a number of other effects including depression, memory problems, blurred vision, and general irritability or aggression.

Alcohol and MDMA are hardly alone when it comes to what substances can present problems to students. Any drugs, including improperly taken prescription drugs, can lead to health consequences and poor decision making. Those poor decisions, such as driving impaired, fighting, or irresponsible sexual activity can have lifelong implications. For this reason it’s important to stress to students to have fun, but to be responsible. Don’t use this as an occasion for drug use, and irresponsible alcohol use. Choosing what you put in your body is a big step in staying safe, and having fun.