March 15, 2013 — -- It's an annual rite of spring.
Millions of teens and college-age kids migrate to beaches all over the world for spring break, posting videos on YouTube that show wild parties fueled by booze, bikinis and sex.
During spring break, teens are drawn to crowds and succumb to peer pressure. Things can get downright deadly. Just last week, police said, a 20-year-old college student from Michigan died in an alcohol-related incident while on spring break in Panama City, Fla.
The new movie, "Spring Breakers," now in theaters, glorifies the escape young people look for, taking us on a wild ride of debauchery. The movie is about a group of bored college girls. Two of them, played by former Disney child stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, suddenly seem very grown up and willing to do whatever it takes to be a part of the biggest party week ever.
Nothing is rated PG.
Although the film is purposefully raunchy, critics argue that the "show and tell" of it all is not too far from reality. Spring break is often the springboard into habitual binge drinking for teens.
After a few too many drinks, Holley, once a teenage binge drinker, was barreling down a highway at 90 miles per hour and running red lights. She said she didn't remember doing it until she saw herself on film.
Holley's exploits are featured in the documentary "Faded: Girls & Binge Drinking," a movie about teenage girls who drink heavily because they feel enormous peer pressure to fit in. It offers a sobering message for unsuspecting parents and for teenagers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 percent of underage drinkers are binge drinkers, with young adults chugging down more than nine drinks at a time.
Rebeccah Thomas said she had no clue her 17-year-old daughter, Erin Thomas, was secretly binge drinking until one night Erin wound up at a party with older boys that she didn't know well and landed in a police station.
"I thought, 'I'll just take a couple drinks, I'll relax, I'll get to know these people.' But then it became one or two beers, and that turned into, 'I'll take another shot and another shot,'" Erin Thomas said. "I probably consumed about four beers and, I want to say, 10 to 13 shots."
With all that alcohol in her system, Thomas said, she passed out. But that night, she got into a car with her boyfriend, who was busted for drinking after being pulled over, and Thomas was taken into custody by police.
Her mother got a heart-stopping phone call from a police officer.
"At first the officer said, 'Are you Rebeccah Thomas and is your daughter Erin Thomas?' I just thought, 'Oh my gosh, is she dead?' The worst, that's where your head is. I was just panicked," she said.
Often, binge drinkers aren't the college campus misfits. They are just as likely to be "good girls," who are under enormous pressure to fit in.
Erin Thomas said she first began lying to her mother when she was in the eighth grade.
"It was about me wanting to make a decision and knowing that I wasn't going to be able to do anything unless I did it behind her back," she said. "I think one of the main things that I struggled with is trying to be independent at a young age."
Underage bingers will often secretly "pre-game," pounding back large quantities of alcohol before their school dance or a big game, where alcohol is strictly banned.
"You're encouraging each other -- 'just do it, just, fast, just, here' -- and telling each other tips on how to drink it faster, so you don't taste it," Holley said.
For girls, alcohol has the added danger of giving them courage to act out sexually, making them more vulnerable and then providing an excuse for risky behavior the morning after. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 80 percent of teenage pregnancies happen when the girl is drunk.
"When the girls are drunk," said Holley, now 28, "and the guy starts to push it to that limit, the alcohol gave you the liquid courage to start, but not to stop,"
Looking back, Holley said, perhaps the best prevention for binge drinking is helping young people beat back escalating insecurities.
"I would tell [a young girl] that she's beautiful, and she's capable of doing whatever she wants to do, and I don't think I knew that, that I could be cool without it," Holley said.