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College freshmen are particularly vulnerable to alcohol abuse

If you've just sent your child off to college, it's important to know that the first six weeks of a young person's freshman year are the ones where they are most vulnerable to getting into trouble — even serious danger — because of alcohol.

Even though many kids have been exposed to alcohol in their high school years or even earlier, their new-found freedom, combined with greater accessibility to alcohol and fewer adult controls, can lead to excessive drinking.

Parents may feel like they have little, if any, influence over their children at this point in their lives. But studies have shown that young people who don't engage in underage drinking often have parents who discussed the consequences of alcohol use with them.

These consequences can include arrests for DUI or underage drinking, as well as health risks. The number of college students who engage in binge drinking, which can prove fatal, continues to rise. Sexual assault is too often a consequence of drinking to excess. Of course, drinking can also have academic consequences.

If you talked to your incoming freshman about the dangers of alcohol before the school year began, parents can still help protect them from becoming yet another statistic. By continuing to communicate with your kids about their daily activities, friends and classes, you can be on the alert for any potential problems.

Find out what kind of emergency services the school provides, and make your child aware of these, as well as safe-ride services that are available around campus. Those who don't need this information for themselves may still need to seek help for someone else.

Make sure that your college student can recognize the signs of inebriation and alcohol poisoning. Even if he or she doesn't drive, they must realize that getting into a car with someone who has been drinking can prove fatal.

If your child is arrested for drunk driving or underage drinking, it's essential to seek legal guidance. You likely want your child to face consequences for his or her actions, but a conviction can have long-term repercussions that can impact any professional career well into the future.

Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, "Fall Semester—A Time for Parents to Discuss the Risks of College Drinking," accessed Sep. 01, 2017

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