That’s a very timely question! Summer is coming to an end, and young adults nationwide are getting ready to pack up and head to college. But for many college students, whether they are at the beginning of their college career or are returning to finish up their final semester, their first weekend back on campus might involve heavy drinking. Binge drinking is a dangerous activity. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. This typically happens when men consume 5 or more drinks, and when women consume 4 or more drinks, in about 2 hours.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by people under the age of 21 in the U.S. is due to binge drinking. Drinking games, which are meant to be playful competitions among peers, encourage young adults to consume larger amounts of alcohol in shorter time periods. The more they drink in a short time span, the more drunk they become.
Each year, drinking affects college students, as well as college communities and families. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the consequences of drinking include:
- Death: 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries.
- Assault: More than 690,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.
- Alcohol is a factor in sexual assaults. More than 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
- Injury. 599,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 receive unintentional injuries while under the influence of alcohol.
- Academic problems. About 25 percent of college students report academic consequences of their drinking including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall.
- Health problems/suicide attempts: More than 150,000 students develop an alcohol-related health problem and between 1.2 and 1.5 percent of students indicate that they tried to commit suicide within the past year due to drinking or drug use.
So how can parents talk to their kids about the dangers of binge drinking?
Taking the initiative to talk with your student about how alcohol use can affect their health and well-being, as well as how it can impact their family and college community. Talking with your son or daughter may lower the risk of serious alcohol-related consequences. This means not only talking to them prior to leaving for college, but keeping those conversations going.
Here are some practical guidelines:
- Talk about how drinking affects the body. Students need to know how drinking on a given occasion will affect them physically and mentally.
- Make clear your own position concerning your student’s drinking, letting them know exactly what is okay and what is not.
- Students drink for a variety of reasons. If they feel compelled to drink, let them know you’re open to talking—and listening—about why they’re tempted to drink.
- Discuss reasons to abstain from drinking as well as the many negative consequences that can result from drinking.
- Make clear your willingness to help your son or daughter find constructive alternatives to drinking.
Need more help talking to your college-age kids about binge drinking? If your workplace offers an Employee Assistance + Work/Life Program as one of your benefits, take advantage of it—it’s free to call and speak to a licensed professional counselor who is trained in helping to handle issues relating to parenting, drinking, and substance abuse.
Want to find out more about how a health advocate can help you? Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Your question may be answered in an upcoming “Ask a Health Advocate” column!
Source: A Parent Handbook for Talking with College Students About Alcohol, Rob Turrisi, Ph.D. Prevention Research Center, The Pennsylvania State University