Some use the term "March Madness" to describe not the college basketball tournament, but another college tradition, spring break. It's one obvious definition of the old joke, "Lead me not into temptation, I can find the way myself." Spring break should be known as the anti-Lent. Sex, alcohol, outrageous misbehavior -- every indulgence is mandatory, and magnified live on MTV.
This year, the American Medical Association (AMA) has provided a public service, doing a poll to underline the downside of what it calls "a dangerous binge-fest." It focused on the more vulnerable half of the population -- college-aged women -- and the results are, well, sobering.
AMA president Dr. Edward Hill explained, "Scientific evidence shows women process alcohol differently, putting them at greater risks for heart problems, reproductive disorders and liver disease. These survey results are extremely disturbing because it brings up an entirely new set of issues including increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases, blackouts and violence."
Their poll numbers should not surprise. In a poll of college women and graduates aged 17 to 35, 83 percent agreed that spring break trips involve more or heavier drinking than occurs on college campuses, and 74 percent said spring break trips result in increased sexual activity. The poll is part of a campaign to reduce high-risk drinking on campus by the AMA and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, but I doubt it will have an impact.
One female student in Massachusetts described the prevalent attitude: "There's no mom, no dad, no boundaries. There's lots of young people, and that herd mentality sets in, like 'Let's party.'" So the AMA also noted the risks. Each year in Cancun, Mexico, a major spring break destination, the city and hospitals report an increase in deaths, rapes, injuries, assaults and arrests related to drinking. In Daytona Beach, Fla., another popular spring break destination, last year, county officials reported twice as many rape cases during the month of spring break. Yet parents continue to foot the airfare or hotel bills of spring break.