For some college students, spring break is about closing the textbooks and relaxing, while for others it can mean drinking all night.
Binge drinking is not a foreign concept to spring breakers, but the deaths of 1,835 college students caused by alcohol-related injuries may be. According to statistics from the National Institute On Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, four out of five college students drink alcohol and about half of college students who drink admit to binge drinking.
“It’s a term that captures a particular behavior – drinking in a short amount of time, and frequently,” said Delynne Wilcox, assistant director of health planning and prevention at The University of Alabama.
The definition of binge drinking differs from male to female, and even varies within genders, depending on other factors such as weight, but according the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, binge drinking is defined as either a male consuming five or more drinks, or a female consuming four or more drinks, within an hour.
“The body is a fine-tuned engine with a lot of warning signals, but we think we can circumvent them, and that’s when people get into trouble,” Wilcox said.
Vomiting is a good sign you are at risk of alcohol poisoning, and while you may feel fine for a short amount of time after throwing up, the alcohol is still logged in your bloodstream, and the consequences of continuing to drink may lead you to the hospital.
“For some students, spring break isn’t just about binge drinking,” Wilcox said. “It is about being and staying drunk the whole week.”
Binge drinking is no new epidemic. According to results from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 40 percent of people 18 to 25 participated in binge drinking within a month, and past surveys from as early as the 1980s show similar rates for people that age.
Students who have lost loved ones to alcohol-related incidents, such as junior Adelaide Kattman, fear what people might do behind the wheel this spring break.
“Drinking and driving is a terrible thing to do – it’s just such a quick simple decision that changes lives,” Kattman said, mourning the loss of friend and former UA student, Dwight “Doc” Reel who passed in February to an alcohol-related accident.
“People think alcohol will ultimately give you a fun time and good memories, but most of the time alcohol won’t paint you that pretty picture,” Wilcox said.
Wilcox suggests, as a general rule of thumb, you should have one sober person for every three people who are drunk in the group.
“I want to stress what sober means,” Wilcox said. “It doesn’t mean they are drinking less, it means they are not drinking.”
“People need to realize, even I didn’t think about it that much until I was personally affected, and then it’s too late,” Kattman said.
As a rough estimate, two drinks per hour will allow your body to process alcohol. Even if you feel “fine,” it takes time for our body’s defense mechanisms to react to the poisonous toxins from the alcohol; even while you are passed out your blood alcohol content will continue to rise, Wilcox said.
“So, if you take your friend back to the hotel, someone needs to stay with them or they could stop breathing and no one would know,” Wilcox said. “That’s how people die from alcohol poisoning.”