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Helping Your College Student Curb Substance Use

School is back in session for students of all ages. It’s time to rein things in and focus on education and personal growth. For college students, heading back to school can mean an increase in freedom and socialization. They’re transitioning from being at home with parents to living on their own. This can be a big change for first year students who are unsure what to expect.

Unfortunately college still comes with the stigma of drinking and partying. Newfound freedom means experimenting and testing boundaries for some students. While there are those who stay on the straight and narrow, others seem to stray off course. Parents may not be there looking over their children’s shoulders, but they can have a lasting influence on the decisions they make.

Setting Expectations

Parents should be realistic that their child’s behavior will most likely change in college as they get older, mature, and are exposed to new opportunities. But deep down, how they were raised still sticks with them. Continue focusing on positive reinforcement and establishing expectations. Students should understand what is and is not acceptable behavior. Keep lines of communication open and stay in touch so that students feel more comfortable opening up about challenges they may be facing or insecurities.

Don’t just lecture on the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Most students already know about these things to some extent. Instead, focus on the impact to their education and future. Excessive drinking or drug use can put a real damper on their future. It can affect their ability to retain essential information as it damages their brain. Having a criminal record can make it more difficult to obtain a job later on depending on what background checks are required. Addiction can derail their career aspirations and take their life in a completely different direction. They are paying good money for an education and they should want to make the most of it.

Focusing on Moderation

When students are old enough to legally drink, they should do so with caution. It is important that they know whether alcoholism runs in their family so they can be more vigilant. Talk to your child about monitoring their drinking by keeping a daily log or designating some days as alcohol-free days. While a drink now and then is okay, they shouldn’t be overindulging on a frequent basis. It is easy to underestimate how much or how often they are drinking, so discuss ways to track these patterns and be aware of when they are becoming problematic. Reinforce that just because they are in college doesn’t mean they have to drink, and even if their friends are, they can choose to have something else or be a designated driver.

Getting Involved

Encourage college students to get involved in campus groups or activities. This can promote healthier choices and keep them busy in a good way. Building strong friendships around common interests and activities aside from drinking can be beneficial. When they are focused on academics, internships, work study jobs, or extracurriculars, they may be more apt to turn away from drugs or alcohol because they don’t want to jeopardize their future. Substance use could get them kicked off of teams or disqualified from events.

Staying active can also help them to develop healthier alternatives to coping with stress and other challenges. They have somewhere to turn and something to focus their energy on. In addition, teams and groups can support individuals in building better problem solving, coping, and communication skills.

Learn Time Management

Improper time management can mean a rush of activity all at once and overlapping deadlines. Putting off studying or assignments until the last minute can mean struggling to get them completed and done well. It can also lead students to experiment with drugs such as Ritalin, Adderall, or Concerta to improve their focus and concentration. For those with a medical diagnosis of ADHD, these medications can be valuable in supporting their learning, but for those without a diagnosis, it can actually have the opposite effect. Use of these medications can not only lead to addiction, but also contribute to more problems sleeping, concentrating, and functioning.

Talk to your child about creating a manageable schedule. If they know they have problems waking up early, take classes later in the day. If they are holding down a job – be it in campus or off campus – make sure they balance their time to allow for studying, projects, and working.

Be Proactive

Some students start college with a history of substance use that has carried over from high school. They may have already completed a California drug and alcohol rehab program prior to beginning, so it is essential that they set themselves up to be more successful. Look into options through the university for ongoing counseling or support group meetings. Some colleges have established groups in place to promote sobriety and long-term recovery. Make sure that students know where they can turn for help and how to recognize triggers. They may have to adjust their relapse prevention plan to accommodate new situations and challenges.

College does not have to be a segue into addiction. There are many students who are able to effectively manage drinking and focus on their education and future. However, if a substance use problem does develop, it is essential to seek treatment as soon as possible to prevent it from escalating even further. Chapters Capistrano, an Orange County drug and alcohol rehab center, can help college students get back on track through customized treatment plans tailored to their needs for overcoming substance use disorders. Contact Chapters Capistrano at 949-371-4198 to learn more about how luxury rehab can help.