College Culture

Off to College

As you prepare your child for college -- and continuing after you've dropped him off at the dorm -- you can help guide him to a healthy experience.  And you don't have to tread on his independence to do it.  "You don't show up every weekend and make his bed.  You let him know you have his back," says Amelia Arria, Senior Scientist at Treatment Research Institute.

Wrapping Up High School

  • Ideally, you've already been talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol during middle school and high school.  Research shows students who drank in high school are three times more likely to begin heavy episodic drinking in college [Weitzman, Nelson & Wechsler (2003)].
  • Don't buy into the myth that allowing teens to drink around you will help them deal with alcohol issues when they're on their own.  Research shows that no matter who they drink with in high school, "they'll sustain and increase their drinking level" in college, says Arria.

Off to College

  • Make sure you keep an open line of communication with them. "It's not all about the topic of drinking and drug use," says Arria.  "It's about maintaining that really supportive relationship."  Your child needs to know that if any problems or difficult situations arise, she can turn to you for help.  Be an at-home resource for your college student.
  • Don't want to come across as over-protective?  "I do think the quality of the parent-child relationship has to change, but I don't think [parents have] to back off," says Arria. "Rather than asking about her friends, you might be asking about her classes and what she's interested in."
  • Stay alert to possible mental health issues.  "Between the ages of 18 and 25 are when a lot of things pop up, if they haven't already in adolescence, like anxiety disorders," says Arria.  There is a strong link between mental health issues and the use of drugs and alcohol.  Just in case something does happen, make sure you know what campus mental health resources are available to your child.

Prescription Drugs in the Dorms

While the most popular drugs on college campuses are alcohol and marijuana, non-medical use of prescription stimulants, analgesics (painkillers), and tranquilizers is on the rise.  While some parents turn a blind eye because they think the drugs may help their child do better in school, this is something you definitely want to disapprove of.  Keep in mind:

  • Abusing painkillers is like abusing heroin because both drugs' ingredients (both are opioids) are very similar.
  • Many pills look pretty much the same, but depending on the drug and the dosage, the effects can vary greatly from mild to lethal.
  • "Non-medical use of prescription drugs is actually associated with decreased academic performance, not an increase," says Arria.  She adds, There also seems to be a strong relationship between the use of other drugs and non-medical use of prescription stimulants."  Researchers believe that students get into a cycle of spending a lot of time with friends, doing drugs and drinking, instead of going to classes.  Then they turn to prescription stimulants to help them get through.  The combination does not work.

Drugs in your college-aged child’s world can include:

Tobacco, Alcohol, prescription drugs such as Ritalin, Oxycontin, Vicodin, Valium or Xanax, and illicit drugs such as Marijuana, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Heroin. Inhalants, Marijuana, Ecstasy, Cocaine/Crack, GHB, Heroin and Mushrooms.



Your adult child is moving to her own apartment or into a college dorm.


What to Say

I know you’re off to start your own lif,e but please know that I’m always here for you.  I respect that you’re old enough to make your own choices, but if you ever want another perspective on things, give a shout.  I’ll try my hardest to help you out without judging you for your decisions. Sound good?

Amelia Arria, senior research scientist at the Treatment Research Institute, also suggests: There are certain things that you can count on in lif,e and one of the things you’re going to be able to count on is me.  As your parent, I am always here for you.  Remember, I am your support. I’m the one who can guide you.