Talking to Your Student about Alcohol

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Abby Myers, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist, Counseling Center

It is important that students who choose to drink are aware of the potential consequences of alcohol use, the warning signs of a drinking problem, and how to help a friend. According to nation-wide research on college campuses, 71 percent of students have used alcohol in the past 30 days and nearly half of all college students have engaged in binge drinking in the last two weeks. In studies conducted at Georgia Tech in past years, nearly 46 percent of students reported binge drinking in the past two weeks. Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks in one setting for men and as four or more drinks in one setting for women. As a parent, it is important for your student to feel safe talking to you about all of their college experiences, including their choices around using alcohol and other drugs.

How to Talk About Alcohol with Your Student
Research shows that a parent’s influence has more impact on a student’s choices than the influence of their friends. Communication is very important! Initiate a discussion with your student by asking open-ended questions, such as:

“What choices have you made about drinking alcohol at parties?”

“What do you do to ensure you and your friends are safe when you drink?”

“Let’s talk about the pros and cons of your decision.”

Talking about your values regarding alcohol including your own drinking behaviors is also a great way to initiate this very important conversation with your student. If your student chooses to drink alcohol, encourage them to engage in low-risk drinking behaviors to reduce the chances of negative social, academic and legal consequences.

When to Be Concerned
As a parent, you should be concerned about your student’s drinking if they are involved in the following high-risk behaviors:
* Drinking to cope with or avoid feelings
* Drinking more than 14 drinks/week (for men) or 7 drinks/week (for women)
* Drinking more than 4 drinks in one day (men) or 3 drinks in one day (women)
* Binge drinking
* Driving after drinking alcohol
* Experiencing blackouts
* Trying unsuccessfully to control or limit the amount they drink
* Drinking to become intoxicated
* Reporting negative interpersonal, academic or health consequences because of drinking
* Experiencing legal or institutional consequences related to alcohol use
* Drinking while taking medication that is contraindicated with alcohol
*Drinking while under the age of 21 years old

Potential Consequences of Heavy Drinking
While drinking alcohol can be legal and low-risk, it is important that students are aware of potential consequences of heavy drinking. If a student cannot remember parts of the night before, it is likely that they experienced a blackout. Blackouts, a high alcohol tolerance and a family history of alcoholism are the three major risk factors for alcoholism. In addition, alcohol is involved in 80 percent of unwanted sex on college campuses. If your student is under 21 years old and is caught drinking alcohol, there may be legal consequences. Plus, anyone caught driving while under the influence is putting their own safety as well as other’s safety at risk. Students should be aware of Georgia Tech’s policy on student alcohol use.

To help ensure the health and safety of all of its students, Georgia Tech recently passed the 3-1-2011.pdf">Good Samaritan Provision which encourages students to call for assistance when they are concerned about a friend’s health due to alcohol intake. This provision could very well save lives in that it supports the individual efforts of students acting responsibly by providing a health-focused response to the incident rather than a disciplinary consequence.

Georgia Tech has a wide range of alcohol related resources to assist students. Services include programs on alcohol education and how to host a responsible party, AA meetings that meet on campus, and therapy groups for students concerned about their use or who are in recovery. Below is a list of campus offices that host some of these programs and services and online educational tools:

Counseling Center
Dean of Students
Greek Affairs
Stamps Health Services
Health Promotions

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Rachael Pocklington
  • Created: 10/04/2011
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016

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