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By: Jenna Parisi, Assistant Director, Well-Being and Prevention Education, Center for Cura Personalis

At Gonzaga, we understand that students are young adults who are learning to make choices about substance use. Based on our Jesuit tradition of caring for the whole person, we are interested in their holistic well-being and not just reacting to a problem or incident on campus. We want to help students make healthy choices and support them in living their values and realizing that many of their peers share those same values.

Alcohol and drugs can be a real danger at all colleges and universities, Gonzaga included. But most GU students do not use to excess. In fact, there’s a big difference between how much students drink or use drugs, and how much they think their peers drink or use drugs. For example, our data from the spring 2016 National College Health Assessment survey shows that about 21% of students reported any marijuana use within the past 30 days—but the perceived use was 88%. So, students think that many more people smoke than actually do, and that may play a role in their decision-making. It’s important to have conversations based on fact, and not anecdotes.

Students also report engaging in protective behaviors when socializing, such as eating before and while drinking, keeping track of their drinks, staying with the same group of friends, and using a designated driver. Please talk with your students, if they are of legal drinking age, about the ways they intend to keep safe. For underage students, it’s important to send a zero-tolerance message. Students who believe their parents disapprove of high-risk drinking will be less likely to engage in the behavior, so consider reviewing the school policies around alcohol and drugs together.

Coming to college is likely not the first time that your Zag will encounter alcohol and other drugs. But if you haven’t talked about it before, this is an ideal time to start! Set an intention to begin a conversation by asking your student general questions about their hopes and fears about going to college. Then, ask specifically if they’ve thought about the role that alcohol and other drugs might play in their college career. If you have college drinking stories, please don’t share these with your student! You may unintentionally be sending messages that condone drinking. Instead, ensure that your student is aware of the University’s rules regarding alcohol and emphasize the negative consequences of underage drinking.

It’s important to keep this conversation going throughout their transition to life at Gonzaga, especially for students living in Residence Halls. Ask your student about what people do for fun, and the kinds of things they’re seeing. Ask what information their RA has shared about alcohol and other drugs. And remember that what you say really does matter. We are grateful for your role in helping students understand that becoming a Zag is not about drinking and using drugs. Together we can offer your student the opportunity to grow and thrive as a Gonzaga student and we look forward to welcoming him/her to campus! Please check out this website for some other tips for communicating with your student: http://www.collegeparentsmatter.org/index.html

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