College encompasses long hours of study, stressing about grades, making new friends and letting loose. However, for many students, relaxing might mean indulging in far too much alcohol or stronger substances. College students make up one of the largest consumer groups of drugs.
While college is a time for growth and fun experiences, the responsibilities of being a student and balancing one’s life can also bring increased levels of stress. Many students may turn to using drugs or alcohol to reduce stress. With this coping mechanism and the easy access to various substances, it isn’t uncommon for young adults to develop a drug dependency or over indulge.
The National Library of Medicine Institutes of Health reports 37 percent of college students have used an illicit drug and abused alcohol on a regular basis. The likelihood of exposure to alcohol and substances at college thereby imposes a major risk for these students, with serious consequences such as substance dependency.
There are various ways that family members can support their children in discussing these difficult topics. Here are some ways parents can educate their children and be a supportive guide to prepare them for their new and exciting experience at college:
Even though the legal drinking age is 21, college campuses are flooded with alcohol. The younger someone is when they begin to drink, the more likely they are to suffer from alcohol dependency. Research shows that many students binge drink in college, and few students are prepared for the consequences that could come with it.
So, how can parents help? They can pay for or contribute to a ridesharing account like Uber or Lyft. These apps and services use designated drivers to help to prevent drunk driving and DUI charges. Make sure to mention that they should never get in a car with a driver who has been drinking, even if the driver assures that they are okay to drive. Having an open discussion regarding the risks, consequences, and safety practices like having a buddy system and knowing their surroundings can help them navigate situations on their own.
Along with alcohol, many college students may recreationally use illegal and prescription drugs for various reasons. Be aware that access to certain substances has become more readily available, including marijuana that has been legalized in many states.
So, how can parents help? Start early with having open conversations that are judgement free about drug abuse, side effects, and potential consequences. Talking to a trusted friend or family member, working on a project, or doing something that encourages mindfulness and present focus (such as art, music, or other various activities) provides a healthy environment to express feelings. It is also beneficial to focus on positive aspects of not using drugs, such as identifying your child’s future goals and ways that staying abstinent from these substances will promote their health, well-being, and ability to manage their future goals.
These conversations, though never easy, are always necessary. Parents and children alike benefit from increasing education and learning new tools to support their college experience. Working with your child on learning healthy boundaries, identifying their own personal values, and speaking out when something does not feel right for them, will help your child communicate effectively and focus on their own future and goals.
Written by: Michelle Sproule, LPC, Scottsdale Recovery Center
Michelle Sproule is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) at Scottsdale Recovery Center. She is certified in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) basic training. Michelle is passionate about the people that she serves and works collaboratively with clients to enhance their motivation and drive for recovery and creating a new identity within sobriety