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Critical Conversations with Your College-Bound Kid: Alcohol, Sex & Pot

Jill Grimes, MD, writes that "Just say no" won't cut it- and teaches these surprising facts that every college student (and their parents) should know about alcohol, sex, and marijuana

The countdown has begun: many families are within a week or two of launching their “babies” off to college.

Parental brains obsess “What else should I tell my kid before they leave? What have I forgotten?”

We all want our kids to be happy, safe, and successful, and obviously there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Know that although a few young adults will suddenly “go wild” in college, most kids stay consistent with their adolescent risk tolerance- whatever level that was, high or low.

If your student is that impulsive, peer-pleasing kid who makes risky choices that leave you sleepless, consider ramping up these discussions and steer them away from “heavy party” chapters within Greek life. All young adults, however, need to learn a few key facts to avoid major pitfalls. Let’s start with the classic Big Three: Alcohol, Sex, and Pot.

 

If your student is that impulsive, peer-pleasing kid who makes risky choices that leave you sleepless, consider ramping up these discussions and steer them away from “heavy party” chapters within Greek life. Click To Tweet

 

ALCOHOL

Did you know that between 20-30% of college students happily choose NOT to drink (or have sex or use drugs for that matter), and another third drink responsibly?

These young adults may face a different kind of challenge, often carrying the somewhat self-imposed but very real burden of dealing with their intoxicated or incapacitated friends, which can suck the fun right out of their own college experience.

Kudos to this group for their kindness, but because these students are not typically trained medical professionals, they can easily get in over their head as they try to help– especially because they feel obligated to be the responsible problem-solver. If this is YOUR kid, please remind them they are not responsible for everyone else’s choices, and to never hesitate to immediately seek help when they are uncomfortable or unsure what to do.

 

Did you know that between 20-30% of college students happily choose NOT to drink (or have sex or use drugs for that matter), and another third drink responsibly?

 

Drinking and driving?

Not this generation! These kids know not to drink and drive (way better than their parents). Consider encouraging this choice by gifting your student an UBER or LYFT gift card.

 

Create an EXIT strategy!

Students should make firm plans before they go out designating who’s leaving with whom, and have a CODE WORD or phrase with their friend group that means “I want to leave immediately,” no questions asked. (A pet name works great and is easy to slip into conversation. “Hey, I saw a dog today that looked like your Fluffy!)

If all else fails, consider “accidentally” spilling a drink on the “overserved” party (possibly yourself) and insist on leaving to get cleaned up.

 

Students should make firm plans before they go out designating who’s leaving with whom, and have a CODE WORD or phrase with their friend group that means “I want to leave immediately,” no questions asked. Click To Tweet

 

NEVER mix alcohol with pain pills like oxycodone or sedatives like Xanax or Valium- this is DEADLY.

 

If your student chooses to drink, encourage them to stick to single serving-sized bottles or cans of wine, beer, or hard seltzer (like White Claw). These drinks have the advantage of knowing exactly what is in them (vs a hand-poured mixed drink) and unless these beverages are aggressively chugged, most people will self-regulate their consumption as they feel slowly buzzed and physically full, thus tending not to get super intoxicated. Shots, however, with their tiny volume, are simply consumed too fast and too often, which shoots your blood alcohol through the roof…and leads us to the next discussion.

 

“Blacking Out” vs “Brown Out” vs. “Passed Out”.

Passed out means unconscious. Brown out means you have spotty memories, and being “black out drunk” means you have actual memory gaps (from minutes to hours.) Absolutely NOTHING friends tell you will “trigger” you to remember, because your blood alcohol level rose so quickly, it turned off your brain’s ability to MAKE memories. Keep this in mind regarding sex and consent.

 

Absolutely NOTHING friends tell you will “trigger” you to remember, because your blood alcohol level rose so quickly, it turned off your brain’s ability to MAKE memories. Keep this in mind regarding sex and consent. Click To Tweet

 

SEX (Consensual)

Any form of physical intimacy requires not just lack of “no”, but presence of freely given, enthusiastic, ongoing, verbalized consent. Note that if a person is drunk, high, or otherwise impaired, they cannot give consent.

If someone is “blackout” drunk, they MAY NOT initially appear impaired, meaning they may not have slurred speech, staggering, etc. If you are intimate with this person and their brain is not creating memories, they will also have NO MEMORY of whether or not they gave consent. 

The take-home message is that if you are even remotely questioning whether or not someone might be intoxicated, assume they ARE impaired and therefore unable to consent.

 

The take-home message is that if you are even remotely questioning whether or not someone might be intoxicated, assume they ARE impaired and therefore unable to consent. Click To Tweet

 

Birth control pills are most effective when taken the exact same time every day. Many pills are missed, delayed, or even vomited, which can greatly reduce efficacy. My mantra is that young women are very fertile. Use two forms of birth control if conception is possible.

 

My mantra is that young women are very fertile. Use two forms of birth control if conception is possible. Click To Tweet

 

Condoms are excellent protection against STDs…when they are used correctly and consistently. The most common failure of condoms is not breakage but lack of use. This includes oral sex (yes, that’s why flavored condoms were invented.) And yes, you can get STDs like genital herpes from receiving oral sex if there is no barrier.

 

POT

Marijuana is not legal in every state, but where it is allowed, the LEGAL AGE is 21 years old. Note that it is not a misdemeanor but a full- blown FELONY to give, sell, or share pot with anyone younger than 21.

If you are getting your pot anywhere other than a licensed dispensary (which is 100% of pot in states where it is still illegal), you simply do NOT know what is in it. Illegal drug dealers often add harmful substances to either increase the weight (and, therefore, the cost) or the perceived potency, including “wet weed” that contains LSD (acid). If you wouldn’t choose to consume these substances, it’s not worth the risk.

 

If you are getting your pot anywhere other than a licensed dispensary (which is 100% of #pot in states where it is still illegal), you simply do NOT know what is in it. Click To Tweet

 

This is not your “parent’s pot”!

THC content has greatly increased over the years, from 5% to up to 30%…and although, ironically, it turns out that THC concentration does not always directly correlate with the high of inhaled products, you should be aware of this change. (Edible dose concentrations do directly correlate with the high.)

 

EDIBLES seem so innocent, literally packaged as childish treats like gummy bears, cookies, chocolate bars, or brownies.

Note the THC is not evenly distributed throughout larger edibles, so not all bites are equal. Additionally, with their benign appearance, people are tempted to eat far more than one “serving.” While inhaled weed has a near immediate buzz, edibles must be slowly absorbed through the GI tract, and therefore the high may not show up for a good 30, 60, or even 90 minutes, and the effects last from 4 -12 hours. Do NOT chew a gummy, feel nothing, and then take one or several more as you wait for the high to begin, or you risk overdosing, with potentially severe nausea, vomiting, anxiety, paranoia, disorientation and hallucinations.

 

Note the THC is not evenly distributed throughout larger edibles, so not all bites are equal. Additionally, with their benign appearance, people are tempted to eat far more than one “serving.” Click To Tweet

 

Remember that pot does not quickly flush out of your system. Cannabis can be detected in urine drug tests for up to a month, and in hair sample drug tests for up to 3 months. Keep in mind that future internships, employers, or grad schools are unlikely to be sympathetic to your explanation that you only had pot in another state where it was legal.

Obviously, this only scratches the surface of these important topics, but hopefully it will give families a starting point for these critical discussions. For more details, including how to recognize and treat alcohol intoxication, and what to do if you are sexually assaulted or drugged, check out The Ultimate College Student Health Handbook: Your Guide for Everything from Hangovers to Homesickness.

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