Dangers of Spring Break Partying

Monday, March 3, 2008

For college students, spring break is traditionally a time of carefree escapades in tropical locales with plenty of good times, relaxation and, of course, alcohol. George Dowdall, Ph.D., and Raquel Kennedy Bergen, Ph.D., both professors of sociology at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, offer tips to college students on how to stay safe.

Dowdall says there are a great number of things that spring breakers don't understand about alcohol, and that the unknowns pose the greatest threat.

On such unknown, according to Dowdall, is that passing out is different than sleeping. "Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) may continue to rise while someone is passed out," he explains. "Leaving 'passed out' friends unattended could result in a life-threatening situation."

Another surprising fact is that a so-called black out is actually an induced state of amnesia.

"Once someone reaches the point of 'blacking out,' memory is lost, risk perception is decreased, and intellectual and moral values are partially or completely lost," he says. "A friend who acts out-of-character is most likely in a black out, and doesn't know what they're saying or doing and won't remember tomorrow."

Another danger of alcohol consumption is running the risk of sexual assault.

According to sociologist Raquel Kennedy Bergen, Ph.D., destination spring breaks create dangerous situations.

"Unfamiliar locations increase vulnerability," says Bergen. "Psychologically, people may be more inclined to try new behaviors and step outside their 'comfort zone' when away from home.

In addition, Bergen explained, increased alcohol and drug use makes women easy targets.

"Students must be better aware of their surroundings, keep track of friends, and report instances of sexual assault as soon as possible."

Dowdall can be reached at 610-660-1674, or by e-mail at gdowdall@sju.edu. Bergen can be reached by contacting the Office of University Communications at 610-660-1222.

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