Alcohol Awareness

WASHINGTON -- Any parent who reads the newspaper or watches news on television has seen and heard horror stories about the tragic outcome of excessive drinking on campus. Parents are frightened by these stories and have every right to be.

As a resource, advisor and advocate for more than 32 million households with parents of current and future college students throughout the United States, College Parents of America (CPA) shares this concern. During this summer break, CPA is advising parents to talk with their children about the impact of binge drinking on their lives and their responsibilities to themselves and as peers. CPA also is negotiating for possible insurance incentives for students signing pledges against binge drinking and drinking and driving. In addition, CPA and the U.S. Department of Education's Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention are working together to further involve parents and other parties to combat alcohol abuse on campus.

In cooperation with William DeJong, Director of the Higher Education Center, and Linda Devine, Assistant Dean of Student Life at the University of Oregon, College Parents of America is encouraging parents to speak with their students about alcohol and offers the following eight talking points.

  1. Set clear and realistic expectations regarding academic performance.
    Studies conducted nationally have demonstrated that partying may contribute as much to a student's decline in grades as the difficulty of his or her academic work. If students know their parents expect sound academic work, they are likely to be more devoted to their studies and have less time to get in trouble with alcohol. 

  2. Stress to students that alcohol is toxic and excessive consumption can fatally poison.
    This is not a scare tactic. The fact is students die every year from alcohol poisoning. Discourage dangerous drinking through participation in drinking games, fraternity hazing, or in any other way. Parents should ask their students to also have the courage to intervene when they see someone putting their life at risk through participation in dangerous drinking. 

  3. Tell students to intervene when classmates are in trouble with alcohol.
    Nothing is more tragic than an unconscious student being left to die while others either fail to recognize that the student is in jeopardy or fail to call for help due to fear of getting the student in trouble. 
  4. Tell students to stand up for their right to a safe academic environment.
    Students who do not drink can be affected by the behavior of those who do, ranging from interrupted study time to assault or unwanted sexual advances. Students can confront these problems directly by discussing them with the offender. If that fails, they should notify the housing director or other residence hall staff.
  5. Know the alcohol scene on campus and talk to students about it.
    Students grossly exaggerate the use of alcohol and other drugs by their peers. A recent survey found that University of Oregon students believed 96 percent of their peers drink alcohol at least once a week, when the actual rate was 52 percent. Students are highly influenced by peers and tend to drink up to what they perceive to be the norm. Confronting misperceptions about alcohol use is vital. 
  6. Avoid tales of drinking exploits from your own college years.
    Entertaining students with stories of drinking back in "the good old days" normalizes what, even then, was abnormal behavior. It also appears to give parental approval to dangerous alcohol consumption. 
  7. Encourage your student to volunteer in community work.
    In addition to structuring free time, volunteerism provides students with opportunities to develop job-related skills and to gain valuable experience. Helping others also gives students a broader outlook and a healthier perspective on the opportunities they enjoy. Volunteer work on campus helps students further connect with their school, increasing the likelihood of staying in college. 
  8. Make it clear -- Underage alcohol consumption and driving after drinking are against the law.
    Parents should make it clear that they do not condone breaking the law. Parents of college students should openly and clearly express disapproval of underage drinking and dangerous alcohol consumption. And, if parents themselves drink, they should present a positive role model in the responsible use of alcohol.

Talk with your student about alcohol. While parents may not be able to actively monitor students away from home, they can be available to talk and listen, and that is just as important. It can do more than help shape lives; it can save lives.

Copyright College Parents of America, 700 Thirteenth Street, N. W., Suite 950, Washington, D. C. 20005. Call toll-free 1-888-256-4627 for automated information or, visit on the Internet.

Addressing Alcohol Through Parents--The results of a study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Addiction (NIAAA) task force on college drinking were released Spring 2002, and there are recommendations for parents. See for the complete report and recommendations