Alcohol in College

Updated on August 23, 2010
J.S. asks from Branford, CT
23 answers

My daughter will be a junior in college. During high school she was not a big party-goer and has always been a chipper, bright, positive person. She still is - although I know that college has brought in a lot of alcohol consumption. I have actually posted on our refrigerator ALL the people in our immediate family who have severe drinking problems - there are eleven of them - and so she can see how it is very possible that she has inherited DNA from family members who have had this problem. She has respectfully listened to my warnings, and looked at the list, and is very sweet about acknowledging my concern. However, she is also not ashamed to say she LOVES to have drinks with friends and fully intends to keep this up. Should I be concerned?

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So What Happened?

Thank you all so very much. I appreciate every response and every perspective. There are a lot of good points here, and I will keep these to re-read. No one decides to become an alcoholic, and no one admits they are at risk. Alcohol problems seem to come up from behind and bite to the surprise of all. Thanks again.

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answers from Kansas City on

You sound like my mom! And I truly do not mean that in any negative sounds like you are a normal mom concerned for her daughter. My dad was an alcoholic and my mom had the same worries for me. Honestly, I did drink a lot in college...and it was fun, but I wasn't and am not now an alcoholic. It sounds like she's probably fine and understands her limits. Unless she's drinking every day and blacking out all the time, I hate to say it, but it's all part of college. More than likely she will do her fair share of drinking and in a few years will realize that's past her. I think keeping the dialogue open and real with her is good and you should continue it, but unless you see her grades slipping, she's losing friends, missing tests or important functions, not dating, etc...then don't be too worried right now!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My son is a senior in college this year. He went crazy while a freshman living in the dorms on campus. Drank a lot. Let me say it again DRANK A LOT. He lived on campus for first 2 years of college and drank and partied. When he was a junior he moved off campus into a frathouse with 6 other guys. You would think that being in a frat house he would be drinking even more. But he isn't. He works, goes to school and does a lot of performance stuff. But hardly ever drinks at all now. He said mom it gets old after a while. Its novelty the first couple years but you outgrow it.

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answers from New York on

This is a part of college life whether we like it or not. It's part of being in a group and socializing. Everyone including me that I know drank more in college then any other time, and after college all went back to normal. Sounds like you've given your daughter all the info she needs, as long as she knows not to drive or get in a car with a driver that was drinking and not to drink to excess, that's all you can do. She is of age to drink, I am assuming, so you really can't do more than you are. If her classes are suffering or she has gotten in trouble that is a whole different area where you can offer her programs to get back on track. When my sister was in college she kind of lost her mind and not only was a sorority sister but a fraternity little sister and found herself more times then she liked, waking up on the front stairs of the college library in the a.m. Two things happened there, my mom told her she will stop paying for school and she had to go to AA meetings. She did, she's fine that is an extreme case, but to put it into context my mom never spoke to her about drinking, my sis started college younger than most and she was an introvert before she went. My mother should have spoken to her about it all but let it all go till my sis hit the extreme. Like I said earlier you've told your DD all your concerns now it's on her to be responsible.

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answers from Dallas on

I am in the same boat with my sophomore son. His Aunt has a terrible problem and I am concerned, but not in panic. Here is the's out of my control.

Like you, I am sure to point out the concerns, the DNA, etc.... I try not to be over critical.......let's face it, most of us did things we shouldn't have in college and that may scare us a little.

I try to avoid criticism but be a realistic gauge. I try not to over bring it up, but I do bring it up. Sort of a reminder that I love him and want him to be safe and healthy. I think it helps when you are at a party and you hear your Mom's voice. I also ask my older son to put his two cents in to his brother occasionally...........and anyone else I think he may listen to. I've also asked him NOT to do certain things and repeated appropriate guidelines.

My advice. Stay concerned, but not over concerned. Keep a pulse on it the best you can, and realize you can only do so much. This is her journey.

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answers from Austin on

I agree with the other moms. In college I drank way too much, but I suffered the consequences, headaches, hangovers and vomiting. That is when I decided I liked to have a few drinks, but I could never be an alcoholic, it was just too gross and I did not enjoy being in that much physical pain.

My family is rife with alcoholics and they are a good reminder to not end up like them.

Your daughter is in college, she must be pretty intelligent. You have spoken with her, you have shown her "the list", but you cannot live her life.

I would suggest you lay off. She has your message and she answered you. Remind her you love her and want her to be safe, but you need to step back or she is not going to be honest with you about other things that go on in her life.

I am sending you strength.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Asheville on

This is an issue that's been in the back of my mind regarding my son. He's out of college and doesn't drink very much because he really doesn't like the day-after feeling. We've talked about alcoholism on both sides of our family and I have suggested he never take it lightly. I don't think anyone ever really intends to have a drinking problem. He's out on his own now so he's at a bit of a different place than your daughter.

I can't watch over him everyday nor do I need to or want to. But what I have talked with him about is what is it that drinking does for you? For any of us for that matter. What is the feeling you are creating? It feels good and fun to be a little loopy. Been there, done that!! But what is the point where we turn to drinking (or anything) to be the source of feeling good. That point is often a very fine line. There are other ways we can be the cause of our own contentment and learning to do so early on can help build a firm foundation for life. (My son is finally letting me teach him some specifics!! : )

It sounds like you have a good relationship with your daughter. That alone helps! We have to step back at times with our kids, but at the same time I think it's also a responsibility we have as parents to share with them to the best of our abilities things we have learned throughout our lives.

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answers from Indianapolis on

Concerned, of course........I've got this problem with my son as well........his father is an alcoholic, so was his son is 34 years old and he knows this.....and he has slowed down..........but he's not stopped and he still drinks more than he should.......

Every young person has to go through the "drinking with friends" thing I think.........if not you are not liked.....I've even worked at jobs where I didn't go out with them for drinks after work, and that made me a bit of an outcast.......but I never have been a big drinker.......once in a while I would go with them for a couple of hours, but not very much........

Putting this on your fridge is just (in my opinion) pushing......take it down.......she knows the history.........I'm sure she's a smart girl.............let it go for now, unless you find she is drinking and concerned, but don't push it......she's young.......she'll figure it out.......

I believe they told my son he actually had an alcohol addition due to his father.....and grandfather......or allergy......either way, it's not totally stopped it........what has helped, is his fiance drinks way too much and he sees her being an ugly he has slowed down.....

Hang in there, try to be patient, and good luck.......try to show you trust her some.....and that you know she's a smart girl......

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answers from Norfolk on

I think the message is sinking in, but it may be awhile till she listens to it.
I could drink anything in collage, though I didn't drink till I was sick.
In my mid 20's, I started getting worse headaches after drinking even small amounts of mixed drinks. Then beer started giving me the same effect.
At this point (I'm 48 now) I can only have an occasional (once a month) glass of wine, a wine cooler, or a hard cider. Everything else gives me horrible headaches. I don't know why, but considering some of the alcoholics I have in my family, it's probably a very good thing, and it doesn't bother me. She still in collage. In a few years she'll be graduated, and will be part of a whole new work culture. That usually makes a big difference towards that final push in growing up.

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answers from San Francisco on

Once she is a junior in college, there's nothing you can do but trust that you've brought her up with all the skills and information you could. Now it's her turn to use those skills and info wisely.

Don't pester her about it, or it might have the effect of making her drink more.

You've done all you can mom, now it's her turn to go out into the world and make wise choices. The only reminder I would keep casually making is, "honey, just remember to NEVER get behind the wheel of a car when you or someone else has been drinking."

Other than that, you've done your best.

In response to the post below, who says to ask her "why" she likes to have drinks with friends, I would have to say, why do most ADULTS like to have drinks with friends? That will be a useless question.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Ooh, tough. It's very good you know your family history & your daughter seems to understand alcoholism is genetic. Keep being open about her alcohol consumption. If you make her feel like you don't trust her, or like she can't control herself, it may push her in the wrong direction...into drinking more. Just keep communicating, talk to her about her social activities at school. Make sure she knows you trust her, but keep a watchful eye out for any changes in her. She may very well be able to control herself & not go down the path of your other family members. Keep talking about it & trusting her! Good luck.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I just have to respond to the poster who said she "decided she couldn't be an alcoholic because it was too gross." No one consciously decides to be an alchoholic and plenty of problem drinkers and alchoholics don't throw up or have hangovers every time they drink. It's also important to remember every alcoholic was a problem drinker before he became an alcoholic and there's no going back to moderate, responsible drinking after that line has been crossed. I think it's also worth noting that the younger a person starts drinking, the greater the chances of them becoming a problem drinker or an alcoholic.

As for the genetic connection, I feel your pain. My father is an alcoholic, my FIL is a recovering alcoholic and my husband is just beginning recovery for alcohol addiction as well. I worry every day about the genes I gave my son and how they could contribute to his having a problem with alcohol in some form (whether it's as a drinker or being in a relationship with a drinker). I think with your daughter the best you can do at this point is to let her live her life, make her own mistakes and continue to love her. She may very well just be sowing her wild oats and will never suffer any ill effects or consequences as a result of her drinking. If she does suffer consequences, let her face them without bailing her out or minimizing those consequences.

Good Luck.

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answers from Colorado Springs on

Unfortunately, it's a part of life. She is old enough where she will have to figure it all out on her own. This is where the parenting you've done in previous years will help. Everyone is bound to stray/test out their own boundaries from time to time. It's part of life. But eventually she'll probably come back to her core values - that she learned from you. I'd just keep a close eye on her. I know addicts are sneaky, but you seem like a very aware mom and I bet you'll be able to tell if she's starting to lean towards alcoholism.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

If she is to become an alcoholic she may do so at any point in her life. College may not trigger it. I would say you're doing a good thing my keeping the discussion in the forefront and you should continue to do just that.

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answers from Atlanta on

No, don't be concerned unless she continues and starts failing in her life. My mother did the same thing with me and just got eye rolls. I partied quite a bit and still love my beer and wine, but nothing like I used to! I've never been a problem drinker (although I certainly have been a binge drinker), and it's never had a negative impact on my life. I have no problem turning booze down or going without it. It doesn't "bother" me or call to me if it's in my house or anything. Most young people, especially if they're very social in college, drink.

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answers from Cleveland on

I'd ask her WHY she loves to have drinks with friends? What piece is the motivator? If you know why it is important to her it may help you take a different approach that may motivate her toward moderation.

How are her grades? How are her finances? Does she have enough money for all of this drinking? How much does she drink per night out? Does she have any self imposed rules for amounts during the week vs. the weekend? Does Thurs. count as the weekend? I wouldn't make any for her but ask her to outline her own rules. Just saying them to you even if they aren't the limits you want will get her thinking.
What amount does she think is too much? How much do her friends drink? What is her favorite drink and why? It may sound weird but studies show at risk drinkers don't see themselves as at risk just like many alcoholics don't see themselves as alcoholics. On another note, if she is heading into her junior year did she just turn 21? It may just be the new social scene of going to bars that is so wonderful and her enthusiasm is that she can drink different drinks and socialize in all these new places.
Getting to know more might help you know if you should be concerned.
Hope this helps.



answers from New York on

It's good that you shared your family history with your daughter. Drinking is a big part of most people's social life in college and unfortunately a lot of people do binge drink. I never was much of a drinker, even in college and learned to stretch 1 or 2 drinks for the whole evening by drinking slowly and alternating with soda. I would do a bit of research about social drinking vs. problem drinking and talk to her about the specifics. I believe a binge is defined as 4 or more drinks at a time for a woman and 5 or more for a man (you may want to double check). You can also talk to her about responsible drinking--knowing her own limits, not drinking and driving, not going someplace with a stranger when drinking/drunk and generally taking care of herself (and maybe her friends) when drinking. Most likely she knows this by now but maybe you will feel better if you can talk about it with her.



answers from Seattle on

I drank like a fish in the military. As did most of us at my paygrade. And since I'm 1/2 scottish and 1/2 norweigian, my tolerance was *high*. Dropping a grand in the French Quarter on alcohol in one weekend was the average. Or a 5th a day + beer during normal circumstances.

Nowadays I might drink 3 or 4 martinis in a night, or split a couple of bottles of wine with friends over the course of an evening *once every few months*. In Italy I have wine with lunch. In the US I don't. When I have housguests that love to cook I drink every night while cooking (a glass of wine while cooking is one of my favorite things). When I'm taking meds for my knees I don't drink at all. Ditto with my Islamic friends, instead of drinking alcohol I smoke or drink coffee. I adjust my drinking to suit the circumstance.

Most normal people (as in non-alcoholics) go through phases with their drinking. The person who decides off the bat that they don't like alcohol and so almost never drink, and the person who gets "stuck" in an abusive phase that then turns into alcoholism are both the RARE people. For the rest of us, our phases teach us our limits. They teach us what we enjoy, what is going to be painful the next day (personally I've only ever been hungover 4 times in my life... I'm one of those annoyingly perky people after I drink, even though regularly I am NOT a morning person... after a night of drinking I'm up super early cleaning and exercising and feeling grand... go figure), anyhow... our phases teach us.

You're right, no one decides to become an alcoholic, but MOST people enjoy drinking with their friends. There is no reason to stop unless it's causing a problem. Most people experience problems with their drinking. And they learn from those problems. A key difference between "normies" and alcholics is that "normies" learn, while alcoholics keep doing the same things over and over expecting different results. She'll never learn her own limits unless she tests them.

I knew when I was drinking like a fish that it was a strong possibility that I was an alcoholic. It runs in my family as well. But when circumstances changed, so did I. COULD I become an alcoholic one day? Sure. Am I now? Nope. Was I then? Nope. I was abusing it, certainly, but I changed how I drank. I didn't know until after I was able to drink moderately whether or not I was an alcoholic. A key component in alcoholism is NOT being able to change.



answers from New York on

My dad was an alcoholic. I remember him being a nasty drunk, so I made a pack with myself to never get drunk, keep it to 1 drink, and to refrain from public drinking as much as I could. This meant that I left a lot of college parties, because the host and guess were too drunk to talk. The biggest problems with college drinking are that most of the students are underage and binge drinking, which is the same thing as getting drunk. I do think you still need to talk calmly with her and present all the facts you can actually find. Go on the internet and especially look for government websites with info. on drinking in college. Drinking with friends is fine, but she needs to keep it to 1-2 drinks. She needs to become more of a social drinker, who sips her drink rather than gulps it down. Binge drinking adds on the pounds quickly, but unfortunately the students blame the calf. food that they don't really eat that much of. (Yes, they are just like kids who dump their food into the garbage cans in high school.) Also the most important thing is that she CANNOT get caught underaged drinking, because there are certain majors/careers that you get kicked out of that curriculum if you have a criminal or alcohol related incident record....this includes underaged drinking. Times have changed and schools are getting stricter, which is why you can get kicked out of an education major and not be allowed to teach if you're caught underaged drinking.



answers from Sacramento on

My niece went thru that phase also, and she was raised alcohol free. She then stopped when she had her own children. It may slow down once she is done with college. If she needs something every day then there is a problem. I believe the recent definition of an alcoholic says more than 12 drinks in a week, but I could be wrong. We don't drink for the same reasons.
By the way have you ever told her that it doesn't have to be hard alcolhol to be a problem, that just wine or beer can be an addiction also?



answers from New York on

I understand your concern, but if she does not have a problem, there's nothing more that you can do. She is an adult and can choose to drink alcohol, as most adults do. Not everyone who drinks becomes and alcoholic and often college life does come with regular drinking. It's normal to be concerned that this family issue can occur - but remember that it doesn't need to. You say 11 immediate family members, but your immediate family are your parents, grandparents, siblings and children. Are these the people who are related to her who have drinking problems? First cousins are not immediate family, your siblings are your immediate family but not hers, your aunts/uncles/cousins are not immedate family. There isn't any solid genetic link regarding alcoholism - it may simply be that in some families, heavy drinking is the "normal" behavior.
good luck!



answers from New York on

I think you have given her the information she needs and she's smart enough to use it. Having drinks is not a bad thing...being responsible is the key. Excess, driving after drinking, etc...those are the things you need to focus on and make sure your daughter is aware and responsible with - having said that - I WAS NOT - many people are not...I am LUCKY but now that I am a parent I hope that when the time comes that my son uses more intelligence and doesn't rely on luck like I (and his father did). I don't think yo uneed to be concerned...she isn't an alchoholic b/c she likes to have drinks with friends.



answers from New York on

I hardly remember my sophomore year of high school, and vaguely remember bits and pieces of college LOL!! I drank A LOT in high school and college. I am now a successful wife and mommy of 2 with my MBA. And I am not an alcoholic. However, I love to have a few cocktails here and there.

I think you are on the right track to talk to her about it and personalize it with the individuals who have drinking problems in your family. It must be really hard for you to know that she is drinking so much because of your family history. Hopefully she will get through the phase!

I wouldn't be concerned unless you are seeing that she is drinking 24/7...can't sit through dinner w/o a drink, things like that.



answers from New York on

Speaking as the daughter of an alcoholic, I can say that just because the (alleged) genetics is there-to date no genes have been specifically tied to alcoholism-it does not mean that she has inherited the tendency, nor, assuming she HAD inherited a tendency towards alcoholism, does it mean that those genes will automatically be expressed and that she is doomed to drink herself to death. It took me a while to figure this out about myself, and as a result I do drink in moderation occasionally.

You have done well in that you made her aware of relatives that have a problem with drinking; now the other thing you can do is help her to learn coping skills, confidence in herself, etc. so that if something painful happens to her in life she doesn't turn to alcohol as a crutch. Make sure she understands that drinking doesn't make the problems go away, so it's better if she deals with it head on. Watching for signs of depression can help also-that & drinking seemed to go hand in hand on my father's side of the family.

It sounds like she's got her head on straight at this point, so talk to her about binge drinking-right now that is more of a worry than long-term alcoholism at this point-there were a few kids over the years at the university where I work who drank themselves to death that way-pledging a frat & they drank way too much to "prove" themselves & dying of alcohol poisoning, etc. Good luck!

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