Back to College: Talking to Your Student About Substance Use

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It’s that time of year again – time for school to get back in session! For families with college students, August is a month of change. Parents and guardians are responsible for buying school supplies and dorm room accessories, moving their students into their apartments and having conversations regarding academic expectations and campus safety.

But one conversation that not all parents and guardians have with their children is the dangers of substance use. This is one conversation that you’ll want to have, as researchers are finding that mental health in college students is deteriorating. As a result, more students are turning to drugs and alcohol to cope with their symptoms.

Below are some tips for talking to your college student about drugs and alcohol. If you discover at any time that your child needs substance use or mental health treatment, Wolf Creek Recovery can help. We are one of the best rehabs in Arizona, offering convenient and flexible outpatient and extended care programs.

The Mental Health of College Students is Worsening

The rate of mental health problems in college students has steadily increased over the past eight years, with rates even higher for racial and ethnic minority students. There is an overall 135 percent increase in depression and a 110 percent increase in anxiety from 2013 to 2021. Furthermore, the number of college students who met the criteria for one or more mental health problems in 2021 doubled from 2013.

There are a number of reasons for increased mental health problems in college students:

  • Pressure to succeed in academics
  • Financial stress of paying for college
  • Uncertainties regarding which major or career path to choose
  • Increased social media use
  • Lack of essential life skills
  • Onset of mental health conditions (most mental health problems begin before age 24)

Tips for Talking to Your College Students about Substance Use

It’s important to have an open conversation about substance use before your child leaves for college, otherwise there may not be another opportunity to do so. In this conversation, make sure that your college student is aware of the mental health resources on campus and how to access them.

Here are some tips for talking to your college student about drugs and alcohol.

  • Make it an ongoing conversation. Rather than a one-time speech, continually talk to your child about your views on drugs and alcohol. Avoid being judgemental – the goal is to talk openly and honestly.
  • Create hypothetical situations. Ask your college student how they might handle certain situations. For instance: How would you handle if your roommate drinks too much? What would you do if you found someone passed out? What if someone offers you a drink?
  • Know the signs of overdose or alcohol poisoning. Talk to your child about the importance of looking out for others, knowing the signs of overdose and knowing when to get help. Also let them know that mixing drugs and alcohol will intensify the effects.
  • Share your expectations. Let your child know your views on drugs and alcohol. Do not share your drinking stories from college. This promotes the idea that “everyone is doing it,” when in reality, substance use is a sign of a bigger problem.

Seek Help at an Arizona Rehab for Your College Student

As you prepare your child for college, make sure that you have open, honest conversations about mental health and substance use. This includes referring them to the appropriate resources on campus, should they need help.

If, at any time, you find that your child does need help, contact Wolf Creek Recovery. Our rehab centers in Arizona offer flexible outpatient and extended care programs that will allow them to access help while still attending college.