college binge drinking and drug abuseThe National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) reports that although the percent of fulltime college students drinking has changed little since 1993, there is a marked increase in those who binge drink. Students are drinking more and more frequently—ten or more times per month and getting drunk two or three times a month.

Binge Drinking and Drug Abuse: The Numbers are Shocking

CASA finds:


In real numbers 3.8 million students are abusers. Most startling in those numbers: The percent of students, some 240,000, using prescription painkillers rose more than 300 percent. To read the full report, go to

There has been a lot of pressure on colleges to find ways to “fix” this growing problem, to curtail binge drinking which is defined as having five or more drinks at a time. While colleges hold a certain amount of responsibility, parents play a key role in stemming the alarming increase in binge drinking, the use of tranquilizers and other prescription drugs, and marijuana and cocaine. The younger you start educating and influencing your children, the better.

10 Preventive Steps Parents Can Take

The prevention of these college-age abuses and of raising a child who becomes alcoholic or drug dependent or worse is an ongoing process in which parents should—and can—play an active role. From my research, I compiled 10 significant actions parents can take. Some begin at and before the elementary school level:

  1. Monitor and moderate your own drinking and prescription drug use. You are your child’s—young, preteens, and teenagers alike—role model.  In short, practice what you preach.
  2. Talk about the dangers of binge drinking and explain what it is.
  3. Emphasize the importance of slow, intelligent alcohol consumption. Provide examples of addiction. Use current superstars who are in the news as examples of the disasters of addiction be they from alcohol or prescription or illegal drugs.
  4. Give your child choices in as many areas as possible having nothing to do with drug and alcohol use. This way, he gets used to making his own decisions.
  5. Encourage and praise your child’s independent thinking and actions, i.e., not going along with the group.
  6. Talk about the dangers when you agree to do what friends pressure. Use examples from the news to frequently make your point.
  7. Make hard and fast rules about drinking as your children get older.  Insist they abide by them. Hand out strong punishment when they break your rules.
  8. Watch for behavioral changes in your child. Examples: difficulty sleeping, change in eating habits, less care in personal hygiene or grooming, or a change in friends.
  9. Know your child’s friends and friends’ parents.  If you don’t feel good about some of his friend’s choices, take the time to find out why he likes or dislikes someone new.
  10. Be vigilant about where your child spends his time and with whom and about how much money she’s spending and from where she’s getting it. Don’t ever look the other way and make excuses because you can’t bear to think your child might be drinking or “borrowing” your pills.

Showing a keen interest may annoy an older child, but will go a long way in encouraging smart decisions about substance use later on. As a parent, you can work to keep your child from being part of these frightening statistics.  I hope you will.