Health officials: spring break sun, alcohol not a good mix

By , Reporter  |  Wednesday, March 13, 2013 9:36 PM
Infographic by Creative Designer Nicole Muske

Infographic by Creative Designer Nicole Muske

Partying too hard over spring break can put students in danger, as an alcohol-related incident on the beach claimed the life of a Michigan college student in Panama City Beach, Fla., last week.

While many students use spring break as a time to unwind with friends, it can quickly turn dangerous when excessive alcohol consumption is involved.

Junior Brendan Gay said spring break is a popular time to consume alcohol because of the social aspect, and students drink more than they do while in school.

“I feel like the kids who drink, the reason why they drink on spring break is because they have no school and they are with their friends,” Gay said. “It’s more of a social thing to do rather than just go drink because it’s the time to do it.”

Casey Speaker, a Wellness Center graduate assistant, said dehydration risks and adverse effects of alcohol consumption are more damaging to students when in a warmer climate during spring break.

“You are in the sun, which means you can get dehydrated, which means the alcohol is going to get to you a lot faster, and it is going to hit you harder,” Speaker said.

Concerns about student safety are higher during spring break because the environment leads to an increased interest in alcohol consumption and other dangers.

Speaker also said that students need to be aware of the amount of alcohol they consume, know where their friends are, eat enough food, know the dangers of drinking and driving and make sure they are staying hydrated.

Gay said the warm climate mixed with unhealthy spring break habits concern him.

“You’re not going to be eating as much because you’ll be on the beach,” Gay said. “Usually your body gives out signs.”

Speaker said although spring break offers students time off from school, they still represent themselves and the St. Thomas community.

“Have fun, but you are the same person whether you are here or in Florida,” Speaker said. “If you can only have three drinks here, it is probably going to be the same in Florida, maybe even less because you are in the sun. Don’t change that because you are in a different place.”

Senior Rachel Johnson, who works at The Wellness Center, helps creates a spring break packet handed out every year to remind students about how to stay safe.

“We have sunscreen, Chapstick, and we are putting a little packet of gum in there that says ‘stick together’ just as a reminder to stay with your friends,” Johnson said. “We will have tips for a safe road trip, and road trip snacking tips.”

Although Gay feels comfortable vacationing over break, he said there is temptation to overdo it.

“You are in a population where there is a lot of people you don’t know, and you’re drinking around them,” Gay said. “That’s a little scary when you think about it.”

Senior Britni Tokheim organized a group of 30 students to travel to Panama City Beach, Fla. and said most of them are seven-time consecutive Dean’s List members, and will be graduating with honors in May. Tokheim said this trip is not intended to be a negative depiction of their hard work, but a reward.

“Fortunately, a few of us going on the trip are servers and have taken a variety of alcohol safety-related courses which have provided us with the necessary knowledge to consume safely while partying on the beach,” Tokheim said.

As for Speaker’s advice on making sure students eat enough, Tokheim said she will be prepared.

“The condos will be stocked with hurricane prep-levels of carbohydrates and cheap bottled water from the local Walmart,” Tokheim said.

Ultimately, many students are looking to spring break as a reason to relax and relieve stress from the school year.

“I hope everyone drinks responsibly on spring break,” Gay said. “I think everyone’s main goal on spring break is to get away from the school, spend time with family and be with friends. I think those are the best benefits they have.”

Zach Zumbusch can be reached at

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