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College, Drugs, Your Freshman
College, Drugs, Your Freshman
By Bessie OsterThursday, September 07, 2006 I remember the excitement I felt before heading off to college - so many possibilities, freedoms and challenges. On campus, I welcomed new experiences, which at times included opportunities to try drugs and alcohol. In retrospect, I realize how lucky I was to dodge the negative consequences of my not-always-wise decisions.
Today I am a drug-treatment counselor. As I talk to young people getting ready to go off to campus, I'm often tempted to grab them by the shoulders to make sure they understand that it's not only their academic choices that will have an impact on their future. Their social decisions will matter greatly, too.
More than that though, I want to sit down with parents and make sure they know that their advice, opinions and insights are still going to be important to their college student. Through education and support, they can still affect the choices their young adults make when it comes to drug and alcohol consumption, even if they are hundreds of miles away.
The most common discussion I have with parents who have had a child in drug treatment is that they wished that they'd listened to their gut feelings and asked more questions. So many say, "If only I knew then what I know now."
Don't let distance discourage you from trying to learn about your child's daily life. Talk with your child on a regular basis, especially in these weeks as he or she prepares for college.
Once they're on campus, try to keep a good read on how life away from home is going. Be involved but nonjudgmental. Maintain communication, and ask specific questions that give you an indication of how he or she is handling the daily pressures, both academic and social.
If you ever suspect that your child may have a problem, address it immediately. The longer you brush a problem aside, the worse it becomes.
Even though parents may have experimented with drugs during college, it's essential that they feel comfortable discussing the dangers of being a user. It is the healthy behaviors that parents exhibit now that matter, not what occurred 25 years ago. Try to avoid giving mixed messages by telling tales of your own "glory" days that can glamorize drug and alcohol use. Point out that it's possible to have fun at college without consuming alcohol; there are many groups and events on campus that don't involve alcohol and drugs.
Of course, you can offer support and guidance, but ultimately they will make their own decisions and grow into their own unique people while at school. But by showing interest in their social life, as well as all areas of their college experience - not just academics - they're more likely to talk openly and turn to you for advice.
One other point parents should be aware of is the growing trend of students abusing their own prescription drugs, or their friends'. Many college students are using them as study aids or to get "high.&...