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4 ways to spot college alcohol abuse. How to keep your kids safe when away at college

Updated on June 30, 2008

4 ways to spot a drinking or drug abuse problem with your at college teen

Young people of college age are the heaviest drinkers and the heaviest drug users, and those people who do actually participate in college are at an even greater risk for heavy substance use and abuse, and the accompanying risks of addiction.

Many young people away at college are out of the family home and away from parental supervision for the first time in their lives, and this newfound freedom, when accompanied by the stresses and challenges of college, can overwhelm some students and may cause them to drink or drug at a very unhealthy level.

Parents cannot obviously watch their kids as before, and often feel helpless with worry over the risks of substance abuse.

But while they cannot watch them every minute, there are some warning signs that may alert parents to the beginnings of a problem, and allow them to intervene before things get out of control.

4 warning signs of heavy drinking or drug use

1…You notice a dramatic change in your child's behaviors. A dramatic shift in behaviors is a significant warning signs of alcohol or drug abuse, and if you notice that phone calls either stop or increase dramatically in frequency, this can be a sign of a teen in trouble.

When you go to visit, if you notice that your previously neat teen lives in a slovenly room, no longer cares about their appearance or hygiene, or seems to be associating with unusual friends, these may all also indicate a problem with substance abuse.

2…Your previously good student all of a sudden starts performing poorly at school. Of course academic failures are not necessarily linked to substance abuse, but substance abuse is rarely correlated with academic success. If your teen is not able to perform at the same level as they used to, it may be because they are less focused on school, and more focused on drugs or alcohol…or out partying too late into the night, and too hangover to get to class.

3…He or she is always broke. A bit of monetary fluctuation is probably normal, especially for people not used to handling all of their own expenses and budgeting; but drugs and alcohol are expensive, and if they are constantly in need of more money, you may want to be concerned that this money is needed to fund a growing problem with drugs or alcohol.

4…You can never get them on the phone. A normal college student will spend most nights at home, will normally be in the room and available in the early mornings, and probably home in the late evenings most nights. If you can never reach your teen, this may be a warning sign. If you call at noon and constantly seem to be waking a hung-over sounding student, this may also be cause for alarm.

Most college students do fine

Most kids make it through their university years relatively unscathed, a little bit older and a lot wiser; but enough develop substance abuse problems and addictions that parents need to be concerned, and on the look out for signs of a problem.

You should probably expect your away from home teen to do some experimenting with alcohol, and maybe even with drugs, and there is little you can do to keep them from normal adolescent experimentation; but since the difficulty in treating substance abuse and addiction grows with every passing month of use, the more attuned to the risks and warnings of abuse parents are, the greater likelihood they have of intervening before a problem becomes too severe.

Although substance abuse is a major concern for college kids, depression, eating disorders, gambling and other addictions also threaten, and many will manifest similar warning signs and symptoms as those outlined above.

College is exciting, challenging and hopefully rewarding; but it's also a stressful and risky time for kids newly on their own. Parents need to let young adults find their own way, but also need to stay alert to the signs of troubles, and be ready to help college kids in need.


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    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      8 years ago from United States

      This is a really great hub. I think I'm going to link it to my Great gifts for a grad hub.

    • drazhardaud profile image


      10 years ago

      dont drink and drive...


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