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With Labor Day weekend behind us, many parents are sending their teenagers back to high school or away to college. It’s an exciting time bound to be filled with new experiences and adventures, especially if your child will be living away from home. While helping them pack, it’s also a good time to have one last discussion about drug and alcohol use. At this point, many of us have had the conversation many times throughout the high school years and our kids know exactly where we stand on the matter. Reiterating your thoughts with some quick facts can help to solidify their own stance on the matter and prepare them for what they will most likely encounter on campus and in the dorms. Let’s face it, many teens experiment with alcohol and drugs and can stop without any problems or harm. However, there are the cases where just once is too much and can lead to addiction, significant harm or even death.

So, a quick fact for you to know as a parent is that according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 – 24 die each year from alcohol related injuries. Although your child may have seen you drink over the years without any apparent damage, they don’t really know the serious implications of underage drinking.  Approximately 1 out of 4 teens have taken the risk of riding in a car with a driver who has been drinking and motor vehicles crashes are a leading cause of death for this age group!

Start the discussion by asking your child why he thinks that other kids drink? What does she know about alcohol use? Listen closely and then add in your two cents. Here are some things to remind your child:

1. A 12 ounce can of beer, a 5 ounce glass of wine and 1.5 ounces of hard liquor (in a martini) all contain the same amount of alcohol. The point being that it’s not safer to drink beer to get “less drunk”.

2. Once you’ve had that first drink, your coordination is impaired, your reaction time slows down and you “loosen up” so your decision-making skills aren’t on par. There’s an increased chance of sexual assault or impulsive behavior that you normally wouldn’t get involved in. Judgment is basically off so this is when you read about a child falling down a cliff after a frat party in Santa Barbara, a rape at a sorority house, property being destroyed or an alcohol overdose because the adolescent doesn’t realize how drunk he already is.

3. You can’t “sober up” by drinking coffee. Taking a drive over to the local Starbucks isn’t the answer. The truth is that it takes 2 – 3 hours for one drink to get out of a person’s system. Although we see people taking cold showers, making a pot of coffee or taking a walk in the cold air, nothing can speed up that process.

In the best interest of our youth, colleges across the country have policies in place to try and keep partying under control. If caught violating campus rules, suspension and/or expulsion is a very real possiblity as college presidents all agree that binge drinking is now the most serious problem on campuses throughout the nation.  MIT students will arrive this fall to an updated policy that now even forbids group-drinking activities that encourages “rapid and/or excessive consumption of alcohol on campus or in Institute approved housing.” This is partly in reference to the current popularity of drinking every time a particular actor says a certain word during a television show. The university has also banned kegs and alcohol fueled punch bowls on campus unless it’s a registered school event.

There are many negative and serious effects of alcohol consumption and now is a good time to remind your child of the dangers so it’s fresh in their mind as they embark on their new journey away from home.

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