Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

College Drinking

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on March 13, 2012

http://www.cspinet.org/booze/collfact1.htm

 

Frankie, nineteen, sophomore in college, says that partying begins Thursday nights and goes through Sunday night. By partying she means binge drinking and marijuana use. This, she says, is the “college experience”. I know this. I am concerned about this, but the issue in my mind is that if it happens across the country, at just about every college, then when is the behavior concerning? Most of these kids, and likely Frankie too, will graduate college and go on to satisfying careers. Alcohol will not likely be a dominant part of her future life experience. Yet, for some “kids” this binge drinking and marijuana use will not stop, such that they will develop long-term substance abuse issues. It is not clear to me which “kids” are at particular risk, although family history is certainly one important factor. I also imagine that the intensity of partying is another factor. There is a range of drug use among college students, such that I suspect that those who push that range repeatedly are more likely to have life long problems.

“I am glad I started drinking in high school,” Frankie tells me, “because I know how to control myself.” “You mean those who did not drink in high school are learning their limits in college, and they are learning the hard way since there are no parents around to help with self-regulation.” I say, agreeing with Frankie that high school is such an important time to begin to learn good decision-making because parents still have a substantial influence over the superego, the part of the personality that decides right from wrong. In essence, parents, during those tender teenage years, can still exert external control as a way of encouraging internal control. To put it another way, curfews, close monitoring, and rules at home, assist a teenager in learning the importance of self-care and self-regulation. Being too impulsive can lead to self-harm, parents tell their teenagers by making sure that the rules of coming home and school attendance are followed. Sure, some adolescence are naturally good at self-regulation, but for those that want to cater to their impulses, they need rule-enforcing parents to help them help themselves. Frankie nailed it. I think.

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