Do you have a college-bound student in your household? You’re not alone. College attendance has spiked, with 20.2 million students planning to attend colleges and universities in the U.S. during the fall of 2015. That’s up five million from five years ago, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Coinciding with back-to-school, September is also National Recovery Month. So, while every day is a good day to stay connected in the life of your college student, now is the perfect time to brush up on yourstats and commit to your education…about what’s best for you, your college student and your family when it comes to alcohol and drug awareness.
5 Tips from the CDC
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these tips for college students and their families:
- Nutrition: Wellness includes a healthy diet and regular exercise. A balanced meal plan with items from the basic food groups is imperative, which means avoiding sugary soft drinks and other beverages that may be packed with extra calories and lead to short- or long-term health problems.
- Fitness: College students and adults should get at least 2.5 hours of exercise each week. “Be creative about ways to get in exercise like walking across campus instead of driving, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and working out with a friend, group or joining an intramural sports team,” recommends the CDC.
- Stress management: Adequate sleep, social connections and relaxation can help students manage stress. According to the CDC, “Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among persons aged 15 to 24 years. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.”
- Safety concerns: Campus sexual assaults and other violence have been linked to drinking. Binge drinking, the consumption of four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more drinks for men in a short period, accounts for 90 percent of underage alcohol consumption, according to federal data. “Binge drinking is a factor that increases your chances for risky sexual behavior, unintended pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, car crashes, violence, and alcohol poisoning,” confirms the CDC.
- Tobacco, drugs and substance abuse: Smoking and substance abuse are problems among young people. Here are the facts:
- In a 2013 survey reported by the CDC, about 21 percent of people ages 18-25 said they had used illicit drugs in the past month.
- Heroin use has more than doubled during the past 10 years in the 18-to-25 age group.
- The CDC reports that 99 percent of cigarette smokers first tried smoking by age 26.
- Electronic cigarettes and vaping devices have led to an increase use of traditional tobacco and nicotine products by teens.
Tips for Parents
Parents should educate their young adults about the dangers of substance abuse, including binge drinking. Underage students shouldn’t be drinking, but if they go to a party where alcohol is served, you want them to know about the risks of binge drinking.
Track academic performance
Missed classes, falling grades and the need to withdraw or repeat classes could be signs of emotional trouble or substance abuse. Twenty-five percent of college students report missing a class, falling behind or doing poorly on a test because of drinking or partying.
Recognize other red flags
Dramatic changes in appearance, extreme weight loss or gain, change in communication style or frequency, and social isolation could all be signs of mental, emotional or physical problems, including depression, anxiety or substance abuse.
Identify campus resources
Most college campuses offer counseling services. Make sure that you and your child are aware of the range of health services, including mental health counseling, provided by the school.
Set up a support team
If your child has a pre-existing health concern or has been treated for depression or anxiety, build a support team on campus and establish a smooth transition before the semester gets too far underway. Don’t wait for a crisis to arise to set up a system.
Manage your own anxiety
Be self-aware and recognize when your own anxieties about your college-bound child are contributing to or creating difficulties.
Attend college events that are open to parents, especially during orientation week. Look out for open-house campus activities during the rest of the year. If your child will be living on campus, meet the dorm resident advisor and roommates and get contact information. Don’t be overly vigilant, but get contact information should you need it. Give children independence, but maintain support.
By David Vittoria, MSW, CAP, CPP, ICADC, NCAC II