For many students, transitioning to college life combined with the availability of alcohol and the desire to fit in to their new surroundings lead to risky decisions.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the first six weeks of a student’s first year in college are a vulnerable time for harmful and underage college drinking and alcohol-related consequences because of student expectations and social pressures at the start of the academic year.
“College-bound young adults still need and value their parents’ guidance as they make decisions,” said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health at DHHS. “Research suggests that teens whose parents talked with them about alcohol avoidance before they begin their first year of college are more likely to not use alcohol or to limit its use—and thus experience fewer alcohol-related consequences.”
The Nebraska DHHS Division of Behavioral Health is working under the SAMHSA Strategic Prevention Framework-Partnerships for Success (SPF-PFS) grant which aims at reducing underage drinking and binge drinking through creating community partnerships across the state and addressing youth alcohol use. Many of the activities include youth alcohol use awareness and youth education. Parents can play an integral role in strengthening these efforts and continue to help Nebraska see a downward trend in youth alcohol use and abuse.
“Issues surrounding underage drinking and binge drinking may look different from one community to the next,” said Lindsey Hanlon, network and prevention manager for the Division of Behavioral Health. “Our coalitions across the state do an outstanding job in utilizing the data they have to most effectively plan and implement prevention activities whether that is awareness campaigns, education materials, policy work, or environmental changes. Parents can play an integral role in reinforcing that message and those core values to their children.”
According to the 2018 Nebraska Young Adult Alcohol Opinion Survey (NYAAOS), which measures substance use in young adults, alcohol is the most commonly used substance in Nebraska, and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) notes that it is the number one most abused substance nationally, as well. The rates of underage drinking, binge drinking, and alcohol-impaired driving continue to be higher in Nebraska than the U.S average. While alcohol misuse is a cause for concern among people of all ages in Nebraska, it is particularly an issue among young adults.
Wondering how to start the discussion? A few tips:
In talking with your young adult about alcohol, look for opportunities to raise the topic naturally. Discussions about majors and course selection can lead to a conversation about the ways in which alcohol use can disrupt academic success and career options. Emphasize that any decisions about alcohol need to be made in accordance with the law and their health.
Housing selection can generate a discussion about whether substance-free residence halls are an option. Discuss ways to handle situations where alcohol use by other students might create a problem, such as interrupted study time or unwanted sexual advances.
As you tour the campus area, note how many alcohol outlets are in the community. Emphasize that no matter where alcohol is available, underage drinking represents a risk and a choice that has consequences. Inquire about alcohol-free spaces and sober tailgates at the school.
Discuss reasons not to drink. Explain the risks of alcohol, and appeal to your teen’s life goals. If you have a family history of alcoholism or drinking problems, be honest. Explain that your teen might be more vulnerable to developing a drinking problem.
Teach your college student to never leave any drink unattended—whether or not the beverage contains alcohol. And don’t accept a drink from someone you don’t know, especially if you did not see where it came from.
Realize that your college-bound student will most likely be in a social situation where drinking is happening, and some of the people they are with could be of legal drinking age. Discuss how they should decide whether or not to refuse a drink, and talk about the various reasons to avoid alcohol and how and when to say “no.”
Be prepared for questions. Your teen might ask if you drank alcohol when you were underage. If you chose to drink, share an example of a negative consequence of your drinking.
Remind your student that drinking to cope with stress, to forget problems, or to try to feel comfortable in a situation that feels unsafe or threatening is never a good idea.
“Even if you don’t think your child will choose to drink or try other drugs, peer pressure is a powerful thing,” added Lindsey Hanlon, network prevention manager for the Division of Behavioral Health. “Many colleges in Nebraska are implementing social norms campaigns. Based on the assumption that inaccurate normative beliefs such as ‘everybody drinks’ lead to problem drinking behaviors among underage youth, social norms campaigns use scientific evidence (e.g., consumption data) to promote accurate, healthy norms about alcohol use.”
There is still time to start the conversation and then keep the conversation going. Need advice? The Nebraska Family Helpline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: (888) 866-8660.
Alcohol Use and Binge Drinking Statistics among 19-25-Year-Olds in Nebraska
Nearly two in five (42.0%) of young adults indicated their parents or caregivers allowed them to drink alcoholic beverages in their home while they were underage.
In addition, young adults believed that nearly one in three (30.1%) of their peers drove after binge drinking in the past 30 days which is much higher than the percent who reported driving after binge drinking (4.0%).
About two-thirds of respondents in 2018 (65.1%) reported using alcohol in the past month, which is similar to previous years (67.9% in 2010, 69.1% in 2012, 68.1% in 2013, 67.2% in 2016).
Among past-month alcohol users in 2018, slightly over half (51.9%) reported binge drinking in the past 30 days, which is significantly less than previous years (64.8% in 2010, 68.3% in 2012, 66.3% in 2013, 56.3% in 2016).
Among all respondents in 2018, about one in three (33.4%) reported binge drinking in the past month which is less than previous years (43.8% in 2010, 47.1% in 2012, 44.9% in 2013, 37.4% in 2016).
Young adults believed that half (48.5%) of their peers binge drank alcohol in the past 30 days, which is higher than the percent that actually binge drink (33.4%).
There have been incremental decreases in past year alcohol-impaired driving in each survey administration. Reported past year driving under the influence of alcohol has decreased from 30.3% in 2010 to 19.8% in 2018.
Past-month driving after binge drinking has also decreased from 8.4% in 2010 to 4.0% in 2018.