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Spring Break and Alcohol

College spring break and alcohol use.

Deposit Photos/Robert Churchill
Source: Deposit Photos/Robert Churchill

It’s that time of year that hundreds of thousands of college students across the nation look forward to spring break.

After daunting hours of studying, cramming, and downing countless cups of coffee and energy drinks, it’s finally time to relax and unwind. Many sleep-deprived students flock to the beach ready for their much-needed break. Regardless of their vacation destination, one thing is certain; too many students will drink and get drunk.

Spring Break Spotlight

According to the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) approximately 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each academic year from accidental alcohol-related injuries. During spring break, 44 percent of college girls and 75 percent of college guys get drunk on a daily basis. Approximately half of college students binge drink—many will drink to the point of passing out at least once during their vacation (NIAAA). Interestingly, drinking levels among college students have remained stable over the last 30 years, with nearly two out of five male and female students engaging in excessive drinking.

What’s Really at Risk?

It’s not just the amount of alcohol that is being consumed that is worrisome. Many of these young people are at risk of damaging their brain when they drink so much. Studies of MRI scans of the brains of young people who drank heavily showed damaged nerve tissue compared to those who did not drink.

The brain is still developing well into the 20s and can be harmed by excessive drinking. Studies have shown that alcohol can cause long-term damage to the brain and as well as impair one’s memory, coordination, and movement. Bottom line: The human body isn’t made to absorb a lot of alcohol in one short time without serious consequences.

High consumption of alcohol can result in breathing problems, slow down the heart rate and alter the body’s ability to regulate temperature, leading to a shutdown of the body’s life-support functions.

According to NIAAA, symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing (less than eight breaths a minute)
  • Irregular breathing (a gap of more than 10 seconds between breaths)
  • Blue-tinged skin or pale skin
  • Low body temperature (hypothermia)
  • Passing out (unconsciousness)

With all of these adverse effects, it’s a wonder why some of the nation’s brightest think spring break and drinking are synonymous.

Keep in Mind

As college students pack their bags and head to those luxurious vacation destinations, they should do so with a level head and not drink themselves into oblivion. No doubt about it—spring break should be a time to melt away the semester’s stress, and that can be accomplished without getting drunk.

This article also appeared on Rehabs.


Ewing, S. W. F., Sakhardande, A., & Blakemore, S. J. (2014). The effect of alcohol consumption on the adolescent brain: A systematic review of MRI and fMRI studies of alcohol-using youth. NeuroImage: Clinical, 5, 420-437. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2014.06.011

White, A., & Hingson, R. (2014). The burden of alcohol use: Excessive alcohol consumption and related consequences among college students. Alcohol research: current reviews, 35, 201.

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