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Tips for staying sober in college

When teens go off to college, parents often worry that they'll find themselves in situations where other students are drinking copious amounts of alcohol and encouraging them to do the same. Even for college students who are too young to legally drink, it's not difficult to find alcohol at parties or elsewhere on- and off-campus.

Some newly-minted college freshmen have never had a drink and don't intend to. Increasingly, kids who begin college have already faced an alcohol problem and are in recovery. Whichever of those categories your son or daughter fits into, refraining from drinking can mean confrontations with peers who pressure them to drink.

Fortunately, "sober living" dorms are becoming more prevalent on college campuses. However, they can't accommodate everyone who wants or needs to refrain from drinking. College students should be armed with tools to help them deal with peers (many of whom may be well-meaning) without seeming like a "party-pooper," as people said in the olden days.

The key is to have a plan for what you'll do when you go to a party. You should also have an exit strategy if things get too intense. For example:

  • Have a "decoy" cup or glass filled with something nonalcoholic so that people are less likely to offer you a drink.
  • Bring one or more friends with you who are also committed to not drinking. You can look out for each other. You're also less likely to get cornered by someone you don't want to deal with.
  • Have a witty comeback for people who try to get you to have a drink. People in recovery know a lot of them, like "I'm allergic to alcohol. When I drink, I break out in handcuffs."

By all means, students should never accept a drink from someone they don't know. Even a pre-opened can of Diet Coke could easily contain rum or something even more dangerous. Further, they should never put their drink down.

Even if it seems like most everyone is doing it, underage drinking is illegal. An underage drinking arrest can have negative consequences on a student's future at college, scholarship opportunities and even his or her career. Parents need to take these charges seriously and ensure that they don't have to face the justice system alone.

Source: Recovery.org, "7 Awesome Ways to Turn Down Alcohol," Beth Wilson, accessed Feb. 26, 2018

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