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Keep Talking to your College-Age Teens about Alcohol

As a parent, you continue to be a primary influence on your child’s life. You are key in helping them choose the right college and ensure safe living arrangements. You will also influence the decisions they make concerning alcohol use.

Discussing college drinking

Prior to sending a child off to college, parents should continue the conversation about alcohol and remind students about its risks and consequences.

  • First-year students living on campus may be at particular risk for alcohol misuse. During high school, college-bound teens tend to drink less than other classmates. During subsequent years, heavy drinking rates of college students surpass those of their non-college peers, contributing to serious difficulties with the challenges of college.
  • Early weeks are critical. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the first six weeks of the first semester are critical to a first-year student’s academic success. About one third of first-year students fail to enroll for the second year.
  • Living arrangements influence drinking behavior. Drinking rates are highest in fraternities and sororities, followed by on-campus housing. Students who live independently off-site (i.e. in apartments) drink less, while commuting students that live with their families drink the least.
  • Environmental influences may work with other factors to affect students’ alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol use is more likely to occur in colleges:
    • Where Greek systems dominate (i.e. fraternities, sororities)
    • Where athletic teams are prominent
    • Located in the Northeast
  • Environmental, social and cultural influences combine to promote drinking as a right of passage. Communities, colleges and individuals including parents must work together to prevent this culture of drinking from ruining or ending the lives of college students. (via www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov)

Parents can help

To stay involved during this critical time, parents should –

  • Inquire about campus alcohol policies.
  • Call sons and daughters frequently.
  • Ask about roommates and living arrangements.
  • Talk about risks.
    • Penalties for underage drinking
    • Date rape, violence and academic failure associated with alcohol use

The most effective deterrent to alcohol and drug use isn’t the police, prisons or politicians – it’s YOU.

Alcohol Poisoning Awareness

An overdose of alcohol occurs when a person has a blood alcohol content (or BAC) sufficient to produce impairments that increase the risk of harm.

Alcohol poisoning occurs when there is so much alcohol in the bloodstream that areas of the brain controlling basic life-support functions—such as breathing, heart rate, and temperature control—begin to shut down. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include confusion; difficulty remaining conscious; vomiting; seizures; trouble with breathing; slow heart rate; clammy skin; dulled responses, such as no gag reflex (which prevents choking); and extremely low body temperature.

BAC can continue to rise even when a person is unconscious. Alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body.


Critical Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

  • Mental confusion, stupor, coma, or inability to wake up
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing (fewer than 8 breaths per minute)
  • Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish skin color, paleness

What Should I Do If I Suspect Someone Has Alcohol Poisoning?

  • Know the danger signals
  • Do not wait for someone to have all the symptoms
  • Be aware that a person who has passed out may die
  • If you suspect an alcohol overdose, call 911 for help

What Can Happen to Someone With Alcohol Poisoning That Goes Untreated?

  • Choking on his or her own vomit
  • Breathing that slows, becomes irregular, or stops
  • Heart that beats irregularly or stops
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • Hypoglycemia (too little blood sugar), which leads to seizures
  • Untreated severe dehydration from vomiting, which can cause seizures, permanent brain damage, and death