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Students & Alcohol: A Guide For Parents

Message to Parents

Binge drinking among college students is a serious national problem. Each year, too many college and university students die or are seriously injured as the result of alcohol use.

The University of Minnesota is deeply concerned about excessive drinking as well as the use of controlled substances by our students. Consequently, your student will receive information about alcohol and other drugs throughout the academic year.

Alcohol and drug abuse prevention is a job the University cannot perform alone. We need the involvement and the support of parents. Please talk with your student about your expectations regarding drug and alcohol use. Although your student is not likely to bring up the topic, he or she will listen if you talk. You may not even get a response, but research shows that students pay attention when their parents talk about alcohol and drugs. It is surprising how often we hear "My parents think..." or "My parents say..." when students are talking with each other or with University staff about these issues.

Even if you believe your son or daughter does not drink or does not drink to excess, it is important that you talk about alcohol and drugs. In this past year, approximately 50 students died in alcohol-related incidents nationally. A parent of one of those students recently lamented that he did not think it was necessary to talk about alcohol before his son started college because he did not think drinking was an issue for his son.

In this brochure, you will find some suggestions for how to start the conversation and some facts that may help guide your discussion. We have also included some resources you can call on at any time if you are concerned about your student's use of alcohol or other drugs.

We appreciate your involvement and your support on this critical issue.

How Can You Start the Conversation?

Ask your son or daughter questions such as

  • How will you decide whether or not to drink at college?
  • What reasons or excuses can you give your peers if you don't want to drink?
  • What will you do if you find yourself at a party with only alcohol to drink?
  • What will you do if your roommate only wants to drink and party?
  • What will you do if your roommate or a neighbor passes out from drinking too much?
  • How will you get home if the person you rode with is too drunk to drive?

Talk to your student about your expectations about their choices regarding

  • Drinking and drug use
  • Attending class
  • Drinking and driving
  • Financial responsibility
  • The balance between studying and socializing

Talk to your student about your own experiences with alcohol, both positive and negative. Do not, however, idealize any over-indulgences from your own youth. Your student may assume you are granting approval for dangerous levels of consumption.

Encourage your student to assert her or his right to a safe and livable environment. Students who do not drink are affected by those who do. Explain that your student can confront offensive behavior either directly by talking to the other student or indirectly by notifying residence hall staff members.

Facts to Keep in Mind

In Minnesota, the legal age for purchasing and consuming alcohol is 21.

Underage alcohol consumption and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is against the law. Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a misdemeanor and can result in a maximum fine of up to $700 and up 90 days in jail. Court costs, fines, and increased insurance costs can boost the price of a single DWI up to as much as $18,000.

University of Minnesota policy prohibits underage drinking as well as use of illegal drugs.

Students under the age of 21 may not consume alcohol anywhere on campus. Students can be evicted from the residence halls for repeated alcohol violations. Students found drinking illegally on campus may also receive an underage drinking citation, which can result in a fine of nearly $90. A single incidence of use of a controlled substance, such as marijuana, will result in eviction from the residence hall.

It is not true that "everyone drinks in college."

Approximately one-third of University of Minnesota students do not drink at all in an average week. Most students (65 percent) drink three or fewer drinks in an average week.

The effects of alcohol linger long after the party.

Students who drink to excess are more likely to have low grades, to be involved in an accident, and to be physically or sexually assaulted than students who do not drink. Moreover, alcohol can impair abstract thinking skills for up to 30 days following consumption.

Alcohol kills.

In the past year, approximately 50 college and university students died as a result of alcohol use. These deaths included students who fell out of bedroom windows while intoxicated or tripped down a flight of stairs. In other instances, students passed out from excessive alcohol consumption and died. In many of these cases, other students were aware that the student was unconscious, but they either did not recognize the seriousness of the situation, or they did not want to get their friend in trouble. Students should know that intervention is critical when a friend or neighbor is unconscious.

Some information in this publication has been adapted from the Century Council, the University of Oregon, and Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention.

Stay Involved With Your Student

Since the first six weeks of college are a very high-risk time for first-year students, it is helpful if you call, write, or send email frequently and offer your support.

You may want to ask questions such as:

  • How are you doing?
  • Do you like your classes?
  • What is the party scene like?

If your student indicates that "everyone drinks," or if you gather that he or she is drinking, pursue the issue. Reinforce your academic and social expectations.

  • What kind of activities other than drinking are available on- or off-campus?
  • Are you comfortable with your behavior since you started college?
  • How are you getting along with your roommate?
  • Are you feeling overwhelmed?
  • What do you do to relieve stress?
  • Do you want to come home for a visit?
  • What can we do to help?

Campus Resources

Boynton Health Service
Health Promotion Department-Chemical Health
Room 203 • Boynton Health Service • 612-626-1145
Students can receive an informal assessment of their level of usage of alcohol or drugs. They also can obtain a variety of information and assistance related to alcohol misuse and abuse, including brochures, lists of community resources, and advice about how to help someone else who may have a problem with alcohol.

Mental Health Clinic
Fourth floor • Boynton Health Service • 612-624-1444 • Crisis counseling • 612-625-8475
Students can obtain a chemical health assessment and referral to appropriate resources. All currently enrolled students are eligible; eligibility and cost vary depending upon student status and insurance coverage.

University Counseling & Consulting Services
340 Appleby Hall and 199 Coffey Hall • 612-624-3323
All currently enrolled students are eligible for services; cost varies depending upon student status.

PUBH 1003: Alcohol & College Life
This one-credit, online course covers topics such as alcohol, drugs, sex, social life, and academics.

Community Support Groups
Al-Anon website

Several Alcoholics Anonymous groups meet in locations near campus.
Minneapolis Southeast
St. Paul meeting directory

For information about other local support groups, call Intergroup Association of Minneapolis and Suburban Area, Inc., 952-922-0880, or the St. Paul Alcohol Anonymous Central Office, 651-227-5502.

Parents are welcome to contact any of the above numbers with questions or concerns.