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Play it safe in Schoolies Week

15 Nov 2013

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, today urged young people to make Schoolies Week a celebration of good times and special friends, not a regrettable experience due to poor judgement or irresponsible behaviour.

Schoolies Week 2013 commences this weekend in Queensland, with other States to follow in coming weeks.

Dr Hambleton said that school leavers have worked hard under a lot of pressure and need time to relax and party, but their celebrations should not get out of hand and result in young people ending up in hospital emergency departments or other unwanted situations.

“Marking the end of school and the beginning a new stage of life should be about positive experiences and good memories, not accidents or misadventures,” Dr Hambleton said.

“Good times can quickly become bad through unacceptable or dangerous behaviour as a result of excessive alcohol consumption.

“If you’re over 18, it’s okay to enjoy a few alcoholic drinks with friends, but young people should not put themselves, their friends, or others at risk of alcohol-related harms.

“Misuse of alcohol can lead to accident, injury, and antisocial and embarrassing behaviour.

“Humiliating and harmful stories and images can be instantly circulated via smart phones and social media.

“It is important to not only look after yourself but also your mates. If they’re drinking too much and acting inappropriately, let them know. If they are involved in a dangerous or risky situation, help them out or find someone who can.”

Dr Hambleton said school leavers should be equally careful and cautious about their sexual health.

“Hasty decisions in the heat of the moment can lead to problems like sexually transmitted infections.

“Young people should talk to their partner openly and honestly about safe sex.”

Dr Hambleton said many young people are travelling to some of the country’s most beautiful holiday spots and will spend large amounts of time in the sun.

“It’s easy to get carried away with the festivities, but it’s important to remember to slip, slop, slap, seek shade, and slide on sunglasses to protect from harmful UV exposure,” Dr Hambleton said.

“Sunburn is a risk factor for all types of skin cancer, including melanoma and basal cell carcinoma.

“Prevention is better than treatment.”



  • Among young people, alcohol is responsible for the majority of drug related deaths and hospital episodes, causing more deaths and hospitalisations in this age group than illicit drugs, and many more than tobacco. In 2009-10, there were more than 20,000 hospitalisations with an alcohol related principal diagnosis for people aged 10-39 (more than any other drug);
  • Younger recent drinkers are more likely to report losing their memory after drinking – 36.5 per cent of those aged 18-19 years reported memory loss due to alcohol at least once in the past month;
  • Swimming while under the influence of alcohol is an increasing trend. Accidental drowning is among the top ten causes of death among young people;
  • Many young people will increase the risk of alcohol related harm during Schoolies Week, by consuming a combination of alcohol and energy drinks, which can increase the risk of dehydration (increasing the likelihood of a more severe hangover including diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, headache, increased heart rate, muscle cramps and sleep disturbance) as well as further impairing decision making (particularly because it reduces the perception of intoxication);
  • US Research has shown the combination of alcohol and energy drinks to be associated with a range of risky behaviours including drink driving, binge drinking, alcohol related violence, and unsafe sex

Accident and injury

  • Last year, there was significant media coverage of young people being injured and even killed during Schoolies Week celebrations due to falls and other avoidable accidents (diving in the shallow end of the pool & playing holding breath games). While it is okay to have fun, alcohol, drugs and peer pressure can negatively impact on decision making;
  •  Falls are the second most common injury for hospitalisation among young people (12-24 years);

Sexual activity

  • 38 per cent of female secondary students report having unwanted sex;
  • According to recent surveillance conducted by the Kirby Institute: Chlamydia remains the most frequently reposted notifiable infection with young heterosexuals the most likely to be affected; Gonorrhoea levels have substantially increased (in most cases among men having sex with men); Syphilis rates have also increased among men who have sex with men. Importantly, diagnosis of HIV has also increased by 10 per cent (this is the largest number of new cases in 20 years);

Sun safety

  • Young people often ignore the long-term consequences of their behaviour. However, sun exposure during childhood and adolescence is considered to be the most significant risk factor for developing melanoma and other skin cancers during adulthood.
  • Melanoma is the most common cancer diagnosed in young Australians aged 15-24 years.

Social media and privacy

  • Taking pictures of celebrations is often seen as an inherent part of Schoolies Week celebrations, but when alcohol (and drugs) are involved young people may become less inhibited and more prone to posing in photos that they may later regret. The problem is quickly magnified when such photos are shared on social medial sites and via smart phones, and can have long-lasting implications for those involved (i.e. receiving nude pictures has resulted in some young people being identified as sex offenders).

For those school leavers heading overseas to celebrate Schoolies Week

  • All young people planning to head overseas for Schoolies Week should visit their GP to make sure all their immunisations are up to date.
  • For those school leavers who are celebrating overseas, students should be aware of additional risks in relation to drink spiking, including methanol, which is a potentially deadly poison.
  • It is also worth noting that the quality of medical care varies from the medical care provided in Australia and that law enforcement may have significantly different attitudes towards young people who appear to be under the influence of alcohol and drugs.


15 November 2013

CONTACT:        John Flannery                     02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761
                        Kirsty Waterford                02 6270 5464 / 0427 209 753


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Published: 15 Nov 2013