Sending a child off to college is a big moment for a parent. They worry about how their offspring will juggle their various responsibilities, if they will eat healthily, and if they will be safe on campus. In addition, parents are often concerned about whether their children will be able to resist the urge to use alcohol and drugs.
Never Too Soon
The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids offers some tips that parents can use with any age child to reduce their chances of misusing alcohol and other substances:
- Be open and honest when communicating about difficult topics such as substance abuse.
- Come from a place of love, regardless of the topic.
- Utilize positive and negative reinforcement in balanced ratios.
- Recognize teachable moments when they occur and use the opportunity to educate your children.
Don’t Wait for College
It is critical parents realize that if they wait until their child is ready to start college to prepare them for interactions where they could be exposed to drugs, they will have missed many opportunities for education. Statistics also show that children and teens are offered substances well before they start college and many accept what they are offered.
The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids article also contains tips for specific, age appropriate conversations that parents can have with their children throughout their childhood and adolescence, to help them understand how to properly utilize prescriptions, avoid abusing alcohol and other drugs, and understand the potential consequences of doing so.
Laying the Groundwork
To set up high school students to succeed in avoiding substance misuse in college, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids suggests:
- Make clear rules and consequences for your teenager and be ready to enforce the consequences if the rules are broken.
- Teens from homes with clear rules and enforced consequences are less likely to use tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs.
- Kids who are not regularly monitored by their parents are four times more likely to use drugs.
- Show clear disapproval for misuse of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.
- Remind your teen about the negative effects of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs on physical appearance.
- Praise teens regularly. Positive comments about a teen’s life and who they are as a person have a huge impact on their beliefs about their own value.
- Discuss your child’s daily ups and downs with interest. This will earn your child’s trust, help you talk to each other, and allow them to get to know your values around important topics including substance abuse.
- Don’t leave your child’s substance abuse education up to their school. Ask what they have already learned in school and then build on that with additional topics, such as how and why chemical dependence occurs; the unpredictable nature of addiction; how every person’s experience varies; and positive approaches to stress reduction.
- Help your teen research volunteer opportunities at local homeless shelters, hospitals, or victim services centers where they might see the impact of drugs on the lives of real people in the community.
Trends Among College Students
It can be helpful for parents to understand the culture of drug use in college. College students are particularly prone to certain types of substance abuse as a result of their age, being away from adult caregivers, and pressure to succeed.
- 25 percent of college students admit to using “study drugs” (such as Ritalin, Adderall, Vyvanse, and Focalin) that were not prescribed for them, to help them do better in their classes, according to a Forbes article. Of the students who misused “study drugs”:
- 52 percent wanted to improve their performance in school.
- 48 percent needed to stay up late studying.
- 33 percent felt unable to stay awake in class otherwise.
- 29 percent stated that they had previously been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, but did not currently have a prescription.
- 60 percent of college students reported using alcohol to relieve stress.
- 90 percent of those students said they used alcohol following a stressful event.
- 13 percent of those students stated that they had missed an exam due to overindulging the night before.
Stress and the College Experience
When asked about their top causes of stress in college:
- 89 percent said exams.
- 83 percent said financial worries.
- 82 percent said academic performance pressure.
Only 14 percent of students sought out therapy to deal with stress, even though 98 percent of college students stated that they experienced stress that negatively impacted their mental health. Sleep and exercise were among the most common coping skills students used to manage stress, aside from using substances or attending therapy.
If substance misuse is suspected, don’t wait to get help. Act immediately.
If you are a parent who is concerned that your college student could be misusing alcohol or other drugs, Valley Recovery Center invites you to reach out for help for your child and family. Our California addiction treatment center provides evidence-based care designed to promote a lifetime of sobriety.