Binge Drinking Threatens Spring Breakers

By Chrisanne Grise 03/12/13

Thousands of young Americans descend on Mexico to drink dangerously.

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Drug war violence rages on in some regions of Mexico, but young Americans visiting on vacation are in far greater danger from getting too drunk. Each year, over 100,000 US teenagers and young adults travel to resort areas throughout the country for Spring Break. And though Mexico's drug war is far from over, most students don’t seem too concerned. “They cut your limbs off and sell your organs on Craigslist. I'm just kidding," says student Eric Dempsey, or “DJ Hazy Hays” as he likes to be known. Alcohol—not cartel activity—causes the vast majority of arrests, accidents, violent crimes, rapes and deaths suffered by American students in Mexico around this time every year. And each year, the US State Department publishes a travel advisory with tips to keep people out of harm's way, including cautioning against "excessive alcohol consumption and unruly behavior." Naturally, the warnings go widely unheeded. Students' boozing often kicks off well before noon; drinking contests keep things going throughout the day, until bars and nightclubs open for the evening. “Your system just gets used to it,” says 21-year-old Zach Sklar. But even those with an "immunity" to booze remain subject to Mexico's laws—and could end up behind bars. "It's about 36 hours for a misdemeanor for public intoxication," says Carmen Perez, an officer working at the Cancun Police Station. And those who evade jail may face other penalties for inebriation: Just a few years ago, a drunk student from Texas was bitten by a crocodile while urinating in a lagoon.

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Chrisanne Grise is a multimedia journalist specializing in health/fitness, lifestyle, travel, bridal, and music. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications such as Martha Stewart Weddings, Parents, FitnessMagazine, Fisher Price, Bridal Guide, Scholastic's Choices,,, and more. She is the Senior Editor at The New York Times Upfront. Follow her on Linkedin and Twitter.