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Student Health




To be perfectly honest, my daughter is a recovering alcoholic. We come from a long line of alcoholics and she just didn’t listen to us when we told her to be careful. Anyway, she has been sober for two years. But she is now on her way to college. Do campuses sponsor AA meetings or group counseling programs? What other services are available for students in recovery?


My underage son was caught with beer in his room. They required him to go to a couple of counseling sessions. Isn’t that a bit drastic for simply possessing alcohol?


My former husband is an alcoholic. It was really tough on my daughter. She has been going to counseling and Al-Anon meetings.  Do colleges have opportunities for her to continue her counseling and group work?




I was in MADD in high school and the members were a great bunch of friends. I know we helped a lot of students. Are there programs like MADD and SADD in college?


I’ve been seeing the counselor at my high school for two years. The meetings have been extremely helpful because I just didn’t  know what to do when my parents got divorced. Do colleges offer this kind of service?

Alcohol-related health problems arise in approximately 150,000 students each year. Colleges and universities offer a variety of services and resources to deal with these challenges. Professional staff members are employed on campus in the areas of student health, residence life, and student life to assist students in coping with the myriad issues surrounding high-risk alcohol use.


Counseling and Health Services


Students should understand that anxiety, fear, loneliness, and other emotions are perfectly natural, and that alcohol-related emotional problems may also arise for some students. In particular, depression and suicide attempts are more common among those students who drink heavily in college. If your student needs physical or emotional assistance or support, encourage him or her to access appropriate campus or community services that can help him or her deal with concerns. When it comes to emotional challenges and alcohol problems, most campuses have several levels of intervention available, ranging from peers in leadership roles to full-time health professionals. 


Suggest to your student that he or she stop by the counseling office and meet the staff and counselors. Your child may not have any problems now, but might need assistance down the road. It’s easier for students to turn to someone they have at least met than to arrange a meeting with a complete stranger. 


NOTE: HIPA regulations require complete confidentiality for any student using counseling or health services. These regulations will limit your ability, without the permission of your child, to be notified of any emotional or health-related issues your child may be experiencing.



Peer Education


In addition to professional resources, many college campuses have some form of peer education program. The use of trained students who act as referral agents and who disseminate information on campus is common. Your student will have access to these trained peers and can approach them for assistance. 


If your student is currently involved in peer outreach efforts in high school, encourage him or her to continue those efforts while in college.  Participation in these programs helps students maintain a healthy lifestyle while also assisting other students.


Residence Halls


Residence halls are unique! Residents may initially have little say in who their roommate will be and in which room they will reside. Additionally, students must follow campus policies and yet, while in the privacy of their own rooms, they may be following different policies specifically designed for their residence hall.  Based on the age of most college students, you might expect that most, if not all, residence halls are alcohol-free, but this is not the case on the majority of campuses. Often students of legal drinking age, who are allowed to bring limited amounts of alcohol into the residence hall, are mixed with underage students. 


More progressive campuses offer wellness-oriented residence halls. Rules in these residences vary greatly from campus to campus. Some halls may be simply alcohol-free, while others may be completely alcohol- and other drug-free, thereby prohibiting the use of nicotine and other drugs. And some may simply prohibit consumption in the hall, while others may prohibit residents from being under the influence of alcohol or other drugs while on the premises.


If you and your student are considering one of these halls, be sure the rules for living in the residence are clear to everyone. Some well-meaning parents try to have their sons or daughters assigned to these halls without discussing it with them.  That is a recipe for disaster!





Remind your student that sleep is as important as studying. Lack of sleep is a major problem for college students, in particular first-year students. Some researchers believe that college students should get at least ten to twelve hours of sleep, but we know they rarely do.


Let your student know that sleeping after alcohol consumption is not particularly restful. Alcohol can impair the drinker’s ability to engage in the much-needed deep REM sleep. Although drinking may provide some initial relaxation, the body’s chemical reaction to alcohol can cause a later surge of restlessness, thus waking the drinker from any deep sleep.


And a quick word about caffeine: although caffeine and the many other stimulants available to college students today may provide a quick lift after a long night of drinking, the results can be damaging. Students may take these stimulants to compensate for lack of sleep, but in so doing they upset their natural rest-and-wakefulness patterns and may find themselves in a never-ending cycle that requires even more caffeine to get them through the day. 


Second-Hand Binge Effects


Students who drink heavily risk numerous negative consequences including, but not limited to, hangovers, poor academic performance, violence, blackouts, and alcohol-related car crashes. But the negative consequences associated with heavy drinking are not just limited to the drinkers. Second-hand binge effects intrude upon the health, safety, and success of the entire college community.  


Students who don't drink can be affected by those who do. Some second-hand binge effects include:


  • the need to assist a peer who is severely intoxicated;

  • interrupted study time and sleep;

  • assault or unwanted sexual advances;

  • violence.


Encourage your student to stand up for his or her right to a safe academic environment. Students can confront these problems by discussing them with offenders. If that fails, they can notify their residence hall staff or other campus officials. It may be difficult to do so, but students have the right, if not the responsibility, to contribute to a safe academic environment by confronting disruptive peers.


Also familiarize your student with the symptoms of alcohol poisoning.  Encourage him or her to intervene when classmates are in a life-threatening situation due to drinking. The tragic loss of life of college students due to alcohol poisoning continues each year. These tragedies can be significantly reduced if more students know the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning and are willing to alert authorities when they recognize that a peer is in trouble.


The symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:


  • cold, clammy, and pale or bluish skin color;

  • inability to wake the drinker even after yelling his name or pinching him; 

  • a breathing rate of less than ten times per minute and/or more than ten seconds between breaths;

  • an erratic or faint heart beat;

  • a strong odor of alcohol.

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