Avoid These 5 Common Mistakes that Can RUIN Your College Spring Break!

After 20+ years of helping teens and college students pick up the pieces of their Spring Break disappointments, these are the most common mistakes I’ve seen that can easily be avoided:

  1. Getting caught with a FAKE ID: Plenty of club bouncers might look the other way or simply confiscate “fakes”, but every state has unique penalties, and local enforcement can vary significantly- especially during Spring Break. Did you know that “knowingly possessing, using, selling, manufacturing or even delivering” a fake ID in Florida is a 3rd DEGREE FELONY? AND, Florida is getting very serious about cracking down on spring break partying. Note that the simple POSSESSION of the “fake” is enough, even if you aren’t actively trying to buy booze. Parents, please be sure your student knows that a felony charge is a big freaking deal that could possibly stay on your record for life, disqualifying you from scholarships, internships, jobs, schools, careers, and so many other opportunities. Yes, it’s sometimes possible to get a 3rd degree felony charge expunged, but not without significant expense, heartache, and hassle. Heading somewhere besides Florida? In other states, (like Texas, for example) you may be charged with “misrepresentation of age by a minor” which is a Class C Misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine AND possibly complicated by additional charges that add on more fines, community service, and even jail time. Please, do NOT risk it!
  2. Experiencing a “Green Out”: Cute, brightly colored little THC gummies (edibles) in legal cannabis dispensaries tempt many people who would never consider smoking or vaping. If you have never used (or do not regularly use) cannabis, the “recommended” starting recreational dose is 2.5mg, which is roughly one fourth of the standard 10mg gummy bear- so- biting off the head, like eating ears off a chocolate Easter bunny. Not surprisingly, most people pop the whole gummy in their mouth. To make matters worse, it takes close to an HOUR or more for the buzz of an edible to set in, so quite often people have a second (or third!) helping during that time because they “don’t feel anything”. Unfortunately, when they do feel something, it may be full-on THC toxicity, complete with intense nausea, vomiting, disorientation, dizziness, anxiety and possibly terrifying paranoia and psychosis- aka “greening out.” I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard this story, and for the record, I’ve heard this from parents almost as often as young adults. Ahem! Buyer, beware. PS. Cannabis causes a transient spike in your blood pressure and pulse, which may not phase young adults, but can send an older adult with cardiovascular disease to the ER.
  3. “Blacking Out” (from Alcohol): Black out or back out” is the disturbing battle cry of partying young adults who routinely binge drink, with many defiantly saying it doesn’t matter what happens if they don’t remember it. As a physician who has seen innumerable painful outcomes that do indeed matter (STDs, pregnancy, motor vehicle accidents, head injuries, sexual assault, etc.) I beg to differ. “Blacking out” does not mean “passed out” unconscious but, instead, refers to a memory gap created from raising your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) too high and too fast- typically from doing shots. This rapid rise in BAC shuts down your brain’s ability to create long-term memories, leaving you with permanent memory gaps- “black outs” of minutes to hours from within your binge drinking. Note that when someone is “blackout” drunk, they MAY NOT initially appear impaired, meaning they may not have obvious signs of being drunk like slurred speech, staggering, etc. If you are intimate with this person and their brain is not creating memories,they will also have NO MEMORY of whether or not they gave consent. (Of course, if someone is under the influence of alcohol, cannabis or any other mind-altering substance, any “consent” is not valid, regardless.)
  4. Catching an STD: No one wants to think about sexually transmitted diseases- they certainly aren’t fun or sexy. However, one in five Americans are infected, and 20- to 34- year-olds have the highest rates of transmission. Obviously, the more partners you have, the higher your risk- especially if you are inconsistent about using barriers (condoms) with all types of physical intimacy, which is a common oversight in spring break hookups. For example, the cold sore virus on one person’s mouth (Herpes Simplex Virus) can be easily passed to the genitals of a partner. Catching a viral STD like herpes is particularly frustrating, because although we have excellent prescription medications to help treat and prevent outbreaks, we do not yet have a cure. Additionally, many young adults initially feel devastated by this kind of diagnosis, taking a huge hit to their self-image and self-esteem at a critical time when they are already anxious about all the big questions in their lives (career, partners, & direction.)
  5. Being the Designated “Responsible One”: Perhaps the only thing worse than being arrested or hospitalized during Spring Break is being the ONLY “sober” friend in a heavily partying group. Did you know that 20-30% of college students today choose NOT to drink alcohol (nor use other mind-altering substances)? Typically, students hang out with peers that have a similar “party” tolerance, but it also seems that many “adventuresome” friend groups rely too heavily on their one or two “responsible” members. These frustrated students can end up with a miserable vacation- constantly apologizing for their friends’ loud or obnoxious behaviors, running back and forth to grocery stores, pharmacies, urgent care facilities, and/or legal offices. As the trip wraps up, these are the kids stuck picking up all the empty pizza boxes, beer cans, and vodka handles, while peers are hungover, sleeping, or puking in the bathroom. Unfortunately, these conscientious students can also easily get in over their head as they try to help– especially because they feel obligated to be the problem-solver who keeps everyone else out of trouble. If this is YOUR kid, please remind them they are not responsible for everyone else’s choices, and if they choose to travel with risk-prone peers, encourage them to seek help immediately when they are uncomfortable or simply unsure what to do.

BOTTOM LINE: I wish every college student a fun, SAFE and relaxing #SpringBreak2024! An ounce of prevention is worth at least a pound of cure, so please share with your favorite young adults, and if you’d like to learn more about any of these topics or the many injuries, accidents, and anxieties that relate to young adults, please check out the 3rdedition of my award-winning passion project, The ULTIMATE College Student Health Handbook, which will be released this week on March 19, 2024!

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