By Christa Banister

Let’s face it: College is chock full of exciting rites of passage. There’s living away from home for the first time, dealing with potentially quirky roommates, balancing your classes, social engagements and finding independence. And then before you know it, it’s spring break, and hello, time to blow off steam on a sunny beach vacation without your parents tagging along. It’s a big deal!

But, as we’ve all seen play out in countless movies and reality TV shows, letting loose during spring break definitely has its positives and negatives. While consuming alcoholic beverages is almost a given during these lazy, hazy days, there are definitely ways to do so more responsibly. Like most situations in life, knowledge truly is power, and it’s important to have a few facts tucked away in your back pocket for the safety of you and your friends.

How Much Is Too Much?

Friends on beach with coolerWhile the legal drinking age in the United States is 21, it’s no secret that alcohol experimentation often begins before that much-anticipated birthday arrives. According to the National Survey on Drug and Alcohol Use and Health in 2015, not only did 86.4 percent of males and females 18 and older admit to trying alcohol at some point in his/her lifetime, but more than a fourth of those who’ve consumed alcoholic beverages have admitted to binge drinking, which is defined as consuming four drinks for women or five drinks for men in about a two-hour span, in the past month.1

And with 1,825 college students ranging from age 18 to 24 dying every school year due to unintentional, alcohol-related injuries, the nonstop partying that often culminates in binge drinking to the tune of 18 drinks for the average male and 10 for the average female on spring break, is particularly worrisome.2

Since everyone’s body responds differently to alcohol, the number of drinks a friend can handle may be different than what works for you, so it’s important to know your limit. It’s also important to make sure you’re thoroughly hydrated and not drinking on an empty stomach. Foods like low-fat yogurt, hummus, salmon, quinoa, chicken and spaghetti are recommended by registered nutritionists and spokespeople for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to help fortify the body and help with digestion while you drink.3

Know the Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

Once someone has started drinking, the desire to keep drinking is practically inevitable, especially if peer pressure factors in. Long before the Jell-O shots get out of hand, it’s important to recognize the signs of alcohol poisoning, which is not only serious but also can be deadly.4

Know the signs and symptoms of substance abuse on spring break in college students

Drinking large quantities of alcohol in a very short period of time can affect everything from your breathing to your heart rate to your gag reflex. Signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning can materialize in a variety of ways, but if someone is breathing irregularly, passed out, vomiting, breathing slowly or has pale, even blue-tinged skin, it’s important to seek medical help immediately.

If someone is vomiting, make sure to keep him/her sitting up to avoid choking or loss of consciousness. If someone is unconscious, it’s imperative not to leave his/her side because of the choking hazard as well. If someone seems out of sorts in any troubling way, it’s never too early to call 911 and get help. You may be saving someone’s life.

Making Safety the First Priority

Excessive drinking can also lead to other potential dangers for spring breakers. More than 690,000 students between the ages of 18-24 have been assaulted by someone under the influence of alcohol. An additional 97,000 students the same ages are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.

When you’re under the influence of something that impairs your judgment, it’s also important to remember the ripple effect. If you’re drinking and driving, you’re not only putting your livelihood at stake, but everyone else on the road’s too, so it’s important to have a strategy or a designated driver long before the margaritas are free-flowing.

It's important to stay safe and take action when a problem arises with alcohol poisoning

It’s also important to stick with a buddy (or several) when you’re vacationing away from home. Never leave a party with someone you don’t know or have unprotected sex. Don’t ever drink something if you’re not sure where it came from. It’s these little reminders that ultimately separate a successful spring break excursion from a scary one.


1Alcohol Facts and Statistics.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, June 1, 2017.

2 Glatter, Robert. “Spring Break’s Greatest Danger.” Forbes, March 11, 2014.

3 Breslouer, Lee. “The Best Foods to Eat Before You Go Out Drinking.” Thrillist, December 16, 2016.

4Alcohol Poisoning.” Mayo Clinic, January 19, 2018.