Prior to your student’s first year at UNL, they’ll be asked to complete an online program called the Year One College Behavior Profile (Y1CBP). This will provide them with some feedback about the choices, risks, and consequences of drinking, using marijuana and other substances. It will also help to correct misperceptions about social norms and peer perceptions of acceptable behaviors on campus. Part of this training will offer specific suggestions about how to avoid high-risk drinking. We want you to know what they’ll be taught here, so you can add to or reinforce those strategies. Review the strategies you can use to talk to your student about how they can manage situations to be safe. It is best to choose a couple of strategies based on what you know about your student.
STRATEGIES TO AVOID HIGH-RISK DRINKING
Make sure your student has a plan to suggest some activities with friends instead of drinking or using marijuana.
If your student typically converses with a lot of humor, advise them to use it to think of things to say that can get them out of a bad situation. Encourage them to make humorous statements on their own, so it’s something they feel confident in.
Be a good actor
Students often report holding a drink but not actually drinking it. This trick helps so others will leave them alone and not pressure them to drink something.
Have your student talk with a friend before the party to share a plan to stay safe. Encourage them to ask their friend to help make sure they both stick to the plan.
Most underage drinking occurs at parties, and in most cases, your student knows that alcohol will be at the party. Students may also be more likely to use cannabis/marijuana in social situations. They need to have a plan for how they’re going to deal with the situation, so they’ll stay safe.
Leave the Scene
Suggest your student has a plan for how to get home if there’s no one at the party who has not been drinking or using marijuana/cannabis or if they’re in a situation they feel is unsafe.
Turn Pressure Around
Question the other person about their intentions. Effective phrases to set clear ad firm boundaries include:
“Why are you trying so hard to make me do something I don’t want to do?”
“I told you, no. I’m not going to do that.”
“Stop pressuring me.”
“What kind of friend are you to keep pressuring me? Back off.”
One of the most important ways for your student to stay safe is to develop assertiveness. Whether it’s related to being assertive and standing firm in their plans for how to deal with being offered alcohol or in how much they’ll drink, assertiveness will help minimize the risks they’ll have.
Harm Reduction Tips
Telling your student how to safely use alcohol or marijuana/cannabis rather than telling them not to seems like you're giving them permission to participate in risky behaviors. We get it – ideally, your student would avoid drinking or using marijuana/cannabis, but the reality is that your student may experiment in college. Harm reduction is exactly as it sounds: reducing potential harms through a variety of educational and behavioral strategies. We are not so naïve that we think parents talking with their college students about alcohol and marijuana/cannabis will put an end to consumption. However, you should do everything in your power to discourage underage drinking and marijuana/cannabis use, or at least encourage responsible behavior that does not put your student at risk for serious negative consequences. If your student chooses to consume alcohol or try marijuana/cannabis, the best thing you can do is arm them with accurate information and strategies, so they know how to protect themselves from the abundance of secondary harms and know how to help a friend in need of emergency assistance due to substance use. It only takes a single episode of risky behaviors to change career expectations, experience legal consequences, end up with a criminal record, cause accidents, or experience sexual assault.
ALCOHOL HARM REDUCTION TIPS
- Know what a standard serving of alcohol is.
- Know your limits, stick to them, and stay in control.
- Determine how many drinks to have and stop at your number.
- Eat right before and while drinking.
- Don't mix alcohol with marijuana or other substances.
- Limit yourself to one drink an hour. Remember, shots take about 20 minutes to hit.
- Drink a non-alcoholic "spacer" between drinks and stay hydrated.
- Check if any medications you're taking interact badly with alcohol.
- Don’t drink if you have a strong family history of alcoholism.
- Drink for quality, not quantity (a 6-pack of imported or micro beer).
- Be aware of your situation. If you feel unsafe, leave.
- Watch your drinks while being made and after. Never leave your drink alone, even if you only have a soft drink.
- Don't drink and drive. Depending on your sex, body composition, and how much you consumed, it may take between 12-24 hours for your body to completely metabolize alcohol.
WAYS TO HELP FRIENDS
- Be the designated driver.
- Be a role model for your friends.
- Know and respond to alcohol poisoning.
- Never leave an intoxicated person alone.
- If you are concerned about the physical well-being of a friend who is overly intoxicated, call 911. The Nebraska Good Samaritan Law gives minors limited legal immunity if they call for medical assistance, remain on the scene and cooperate with law enforcement and the University Diversion Policy provides an option for the setting aside of the Code of Conduct violation.
MARIJUANA HARM REDUCTION TIPS
- Avoid using daily or almost daily.
- Be sure you trust your source. You might not know the purity or potency of the cannabis/marijuana you are taking.
- Don't mix marijuana/cannabis with alcohol or other substances. Using two or more drugs at the same time can amplify the impairing effects of each drug.
- Be honest with yourself about why you want to use marijuana/cannabis, especially if you are using it socially or to cope with stress. Talking with someone, such as a friend or counselor about what you are experiencing is a better alternative to using marijuana/cannabis to mask negative emotions.
- Find healthier ways to deal with stress, such as daily exercise, practicing yoga, listening to music, meditating, or learning relaxation techniques.
- Understand that marijuana/cannabis use can make anxiety and stress worse and lead to poor sleep quality, irritability, and depression. Marijuana/cannabis use may also increase the risk of psychotic symptoms for those with a pre-existing vulnerability to psychosis.
- Avoid using marijuana/cannabis, if possible, as marijuana/cannabis may result in DUIs, and problems with attendance as you may stop caring about the consequences of missing class or failing assignments. If you find that you no longer care about your performance in your classes, seek out a medical healthcare professional for support and guidance related to your use of marijuana/cannabis.
- Take your time. It can be hard to find the right dose with edibles or other derivatives. You may get much higher for much longer than you wanted to. To prevent this, use a small amount and wait at least one hour to feel the effects before using more.
- Remember: If you feel different, you drive differently. Marijuana/cannabis can impair your motor coordination, judgment, and other skills related to safe driving. Wait at least 6 hours after using marijuana/cannabis before driving, biking, or performing other safety-sensitive activities. Depending on the quantity you have used, you need to wait longer.
- Plan for a safe ride home. Driving impaired by any substance whether it is legal or illegal, is against the law in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, which means you can get a DUI if you are driving while impaired by marijuana/cannabis. You can designate a sober driver, give your keys to a trusted friend who is not under the influence, and/or use a ride-share service.
BYSTANDER INTERVENTION TIPS
The 5 D's will help you understand how to respond safely, early, effectively, and with kindness.
- Direct: Stop the person immediately if the behavior is dangerous. Take the substance away to keep them from drinking or using. Take their keys away to stop them from driving.
- Distract: If the person is in a risky situation, invite them to join you in a safer environment and stay with them.
- Delegate: Find someone else who can intervene – bar staff, an organization leader, or someone who knows the person better.
- Delay: If you’re not able to intervene in the moment, and the problem isn’t urgent, follow up the next day to calmly share your concerns about how substance misuse is affecting them. What specific behaviors worried you?
- Document: Take a screenshot if you see a concerning text or social media post and follow up.
Be kind. Consider how you would want someone to help you if the roles were reversed. Make sure you don’t leave anyone in a situation that may be dangerous to themselves or others. And, if you see even one sign of alcohol poising or overdose, always call 911.