University of California, Santa Barbara

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Talking About AOD

Starting a Conversation


Ask your student questions.

•   How will you decide whether or not to drink at college?
•   What reasons or excuses can you give your peers if you don’t want to drink?
•   What will you do if your roommate only wants to drink and party?
•   Do you know what the consequences are for alcohol or drug violations at UCSB?
•   What will you do if your roommate or a neighbor passes out from drinking too much?
•   How will you get home if the person you rode with is too drunk to drive or accompany you home as planned?
•   What else is there to do on campus besides go to parties on the weekend?
•   What plan are we going to make so you can feel comfortable to call us if you are in trouble or don’t know how to handle a situation?

Talk to your student about your expectations.

Set clear and realistic expectations and goals regarding academic performance and discuss consequences if the goals are not met. Important topics of discussion include:drinking and drug use, attending class, drinking and driving, financial responsibility, and the balance between studying and socializing

Talk to your student about your own experiences with alcohol, both positive and negative.

Do not, however, idealize any over-indulgences from your own youth. Your student may assume you are granting approval for dangerous levels of consumption.

Encourage your student to assert her or his right to a safe and livable environment.

Help your student stand up for a right to a safe academic and social environment. Students who do not drink can be affected by those who do, ranging from interrupted study time to assault to unwanted sexual advances. Explain that your student can address offensive behavior either by talking to the other student or by notifying residence hall staff members or UCSB officials.

Encourage your students to volunteer in community work.

Helping others gives students a broader outlook and a healthier perspective on the opportunities they enjoy.

Continue to talk with your students about alcohol and other drugs.

While parents may not be able to actively monitor students away from home, they can be available to talk and listen, and this is just as important. It can do more than help shape lives, it can save lives.

Facts to Keep in Mind 


It is not true that “everyone gets drunk in college.”

Approximately half of all UCSB students drink in moderation when they chose to drink, and about 20% of students chose not to drink at all.

The effects of alcohol linger long after the party.

Students who drink to excess are more likely to have low grades, to be involved in an accident, and to be physically or sexually assaulted than students who do not drink. Moreover, alcohol can impair abstract thinking skills for up to 30 days following consumption.

Alcohol has lasting consequences.

In the past year, approximately 599,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are unintentionally injured while under the influence of alcohol, and 400,000 students had unprotected sex while under the influence of alcohol. Death can also result from high-risk drinking at colleges and universities. In some instances, students passed out from excessive alcohol consumption and died. In many of these cases, other students were aware that the student was unconscious, but they either did not recognize the seriousness of the situation, or they did not want to get their friend in trouble. Students should know that intervention is critical when a friend or neighbor is unconscious. UCSB has a “JUST CALL 911” campaign to help students recognize warning signs of risky use of alcohol and drugs and symptoms of overdose.

Supporting your Student

Stay involved with your student .Since the first six weeks of college are a very high-risk time for first-year students, it is helpful if you call, write, or send e-mail frequently and offer your support.

Ask questions.

•   How are you doing?
•   Do you like your classes?
•   What is the party scene like? If your student indicates that “everyone drinks,” or if you gather that he or she is drinking, pursue the issue. Reinforce your academic and social expectations.
•   What kind of activities other than drinking are available on- or off-campus?
•   Are you comfortable with your behavior since you started college?
•   How are you getting along with your roommate?
•   Are you feeling overwhelmed?
•   What do you do to relieve stress?
•   Do you want to come home for a visit?
•   What can we do to help?

The information in this publication has been adapted and reprinted from the University of Minnesota, Century Council, The Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and an article that appeared in The College Parent Advisor, published by College Parents of America (