According to research at the Alcohol and Substance Use Research Institute at the University of South Florida, alcohol use by college students follows seasonal patterns.
Consumption peaks during holidays, such as Thanksgiving and New Year's, with the biggest peak of all being spring break week.
"Spring break is a holiday defined by drinking," said Richard Reich, a researcher at the institute and assistant professor of psychology at USF Sarasota-Manatee.
Reich studies alcohol use and behavior. Researchers have found that simply being in college isn't the trigger for heavy drinking, he said. Instead, the driving force is being away from home and away from the people who would restrict behavior.
"They are pretty much unrestricted," said Reich about college students.
Acting as a twofold potential problem is spring break. Students are away from home and also in an environment deliberately centered on excess drinking.
The horror stories of the worst that can happen make the news: College students do things such as fall off balconies and get in catastrophic accidents.
Others end up in the emergency room for observation and IV fluids because they have blacked out or can't stop vomiting.
Despite beautiful beaches that attract spring breakers, Manatee County doesn't have a surge of drinking-related ER visits in the spring.
"It's not like a Clearwater Beach or Fort Lauderdale," said Teresa Rawe, an ER physician and emergency services medical director at Manatee Memorial Hospital and Lakewood Ranch Medical Center.
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