• Spring Break Can Be Fun, But Take Precautions and Be Safe

shutterstock_53590102LA CROSSE, WI. – For many college students, spring break is a time of festivity in warm vacation destinations. It’s a way to relieve the academic stress of the semester. However, this season of revelry also poses some major health and safety risks.

Mayo Clinic Health System would like to remind vacationing students of ways to protect themselves from sexual assault by monitoring their alcohol consumption and looking out for GHB and Rohypnol — more commonly known as the “date rape drugs.” Each year, there is an average of 293,000 male and female sexual assault victims in the United States, according to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).

The side effects of alcohol and date rape drugs may be severe. GHB and Rohypnol can cause sedation, confusion and memory loss. The drugs are also known to impair the consumer’s ability to resist unwanted contact and recollection of the event. At high doses, GHB and Rohypnol may cause seizures, coma and even death.

The danger of these harmful side effects increases when the drugs are consumed with alcohol. This becomes an even greater problem when the drugs are utilized in an alcohol-rich environment, such as a college spring break resort. Even when these drugs aren’t involved, drinking too much can make you vulnerable to sexual assault.

“Do not overdrink. That is the No. 1 thing I can say,” says Amanda Kubista, social worker with Safe Path, a domestic abuse and sexual assault program from Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse,Wis.

Here are some simple ways to protect yourself:

  • Only accept drinks that come directly from the bartender or are in closed containers, such as bottles or cans.
  • Be sure to watch the bartender or any waitresses who handles your drink.
  • Keep your eyes on your drink and never leave it unattended — if you do, throw it out
  • Be aware of those around you. If your friends are too intoxicated, it’s time to leave.
  • Avoid pitchers, punch bowls or tubs. Open containers make your drink more vulnerable to tampering.
  • Seek medical attention if you believe you or someone you know may have been drugged or if a friend loses consciousness.

Of course, these safety tips are recommended for all age groups, whether vacationing or not. Everyone should be cautious of looking after the beverages they consume, alcoholic or nonalcoholic, as well as the amount they consume. If you or your friends have been drinking too much, don’t be afraid to speak up or convince your friends to stop drinking.

Alcohol and drug use carries with it the possibility of impaired judgment, especially when consumed in excess. Kubista says in cases of sexual assault, “Usually alcohol is a factor, so our inhibitions are lowered, we are more impulsive and willing to do things that we normally would not do, such as leave the bar alone with a complete stranger.”

Kubista stresses the importance of reaching out for medical assistance in a timely manner in cases of possible sexual assault. She says, “Seek medical attention as soon as possible. There is a short window of time in which evidence can be collected after an assault.”

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