School Stress: 7 Tips to Help Your College Student Manage Anxiety

If you have a son or daughter starting college, you’ve probably procured dorm room bedding, textbooks and a meal plan. But have you prepared your student to handle anxiety and stress?

College students today often feel overwhelming academic and social pressure. A survey conducted by The JED Foundation, the Jordan Porco Foundation and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids found that half of first-year students said they felt stressed most or all of the time.

With help from Dr. Meredith Grossman, Clinical Psychologist, here are 7 simple techniques to help your college student better manage the stress and anxiety he or she may face in the year ahead.

1. BREATHE: “Teach them to manage their stress in a healthy way,” suggests Dr. Grossman. One great way is breathing with your stomach. Another good technique is noticing your breath by saying, ‘I am breathing in’ when you breath in and ‘I am breathing out’ when you breathe out. Make sure you are modeling this for them. Even if they roll their eyes, or say it is stupid, modeling is the most powerful form of learning, so be sure to model healthy ways to cope with stress. For an easy guide, she recommends the app “Stop, Breathe and Think.”

2. PRACTICE MINDFULNESS: Mindfulness helps bring you out of your anxious thoughts and into the present moment. Dr. Grossman suggests two easy methods: “3×3” works by taking in your surroundings and noticing three things you hear, three things you feel and three things you see. Another is to look around you and notice something that starts with an A, a B, a C, etc. until you’ve completed the alphabet.

3. TEACH THEM “TLC”: TLC stands for “Talk to a Friend, Look for the Silver Lining and Change the Channel.” If your son or daughter is feeling anxious, he or she should talk to a friend/parent/counselor/teacher, then look for the silver lining (no matter how bad things are, there is always a silver lining or a way things could be worse) and then change the channel – which means find a positive distraction such as taking a walk, taking a shower or doing a mindful breathing exercise.

4. DEMONSTRATE “RID”: Another tool Dr. Grossman suggests is to RID yourself of anxiety by first “Renaming your thought” – remind yourself that you’re just having an anxious thought. Then Insist that YOU are in charge (not your anxious thought). Anxiety plays tricks on us and what we worry about rarely comes true. Then Defy your anxiety by doing the opposite of what your anxiety wants you to do. Anxiety wants you to avoid what you are afraid of. You need to do the opposite: Face your fear and you will overcome it.

5. ENCOURAGE GRATITUDE EXERCISES: Being grateful helps your child reframe her thoughts. Studies show that people who engage in the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be happy and healthy. Gratitude exercises can be as simple as thinking of three things for which you’re grateful, sending a quick thank-you text to a friend or jotting down a couple reasons why you feel lucky.

6. TELL THEM TO SET ASIDE QUIET TIME: Encourage your teen to find a few minutes of alone time each day to relax, stretch or listen to music to reduce negative emotional states. Or encourage them to plan a weekly workout schedule. Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise 3-5 times a week can help the mind and body handle stress.

7. MAKE SURE THEY ASK FOR HELP: Remind your son or daughter that it’s okay to ask for help – whether for academics, stress or mental health. Make sure your teen knows about campus health programs, mental health services and resources – and encourage him or her to seek help if needed. In addition, familiarize yourself with resources for parents and create a list of people you, as a parent, can reach out to on campus if you are concerned about your son or daughter’s health. If you’re worried about your child, consult with a therapist. If you are worried about your child’s drinking or drug use, please call our Parents Toll-Free Helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373) to speak with a trained and caring specialist.


College Students in Study Who Misused Stimulants More Likely to Have ADHD

A new study finds college students who misuse prescription stimulants are more likely to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), compared with students not misusing stimulants. UPI reports students who misused stimulants also were more likely to have conduct disorder or substance use disorder.

The findings are published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

“We know that untreated ADHD is associated with increased risk of alcohol- and drug-use disorders, so it is not surprising that we found high rates of co-occurring ADHD and of stimulant-use and overall substance-use disorders in those misusing stimulants,” Dr. Timothy Wilens, Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, said in a press release.


New Guidelines for Diagnosing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Released

New guidelines on diagnosing fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) have been released by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The new guidelines clarify and expand recommendations made in 2005.

FASD can result when a mother drinks during pregnancy. The updated guidelines are based on an analysis of 10,000 people involved in studies of prenatal alcohol exposure.

“These new guidelines will be a valuable resource for clinicians to accurately diagnose infants and children who were affected by alcohol exposure before birth,” said NIAAA Director George F. Koob, PhD. “They represent the most data-driven diagnostic criteria for fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder produced to date.”


Underage Drinking: What You Should Know

Underage drinking is a serious public health problem in the United States. Alcohol is the most widely used substance of abuse among America’s young people and poses enormous health and safety risks.

During summer break with BBQs, parties and more free time, it’s an important time to talk with your teens about alcohol.

At what age do kids start drinking?

Believe it or not, the average age for a first drink is 14.

Most underage drinking is in the form of binge drinking.

People ages 12-20 drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the U.S. Although young people drink less often than adults do, when they drink, they drink more. That is because young people consume more than 90 percent of their alcohol by binge drinking.

Why is alcohol attractive to teens?

As children mature, it is natural for them to assert their independence, seek new challenges and try taking risks. Many teens want to try alcohol, but often do not fully recognize its negative effects on their health and behavior (see below for why it’s dangerous). Other reasons young people drink alcohol: peer pressure/to fit in, increased independence, stress/to escape or relax, to feel grown up among peers, to rebel, to relieve boredom or out of curiosity.

Teens’ Perception of Alcohol Use

  • Almost half of teens (44 percent) do not see a “great risk” in drinking 5 or more drinks nearly every day.
  • There is low social disapproval from peers: Only 34 percent strongly disapprove of “teens your age getting drunk.”
  • It’s easy to get: 77 percent say alcohol is easily accessible. Also, 53 percent of current underage drinkers reported family and friends as their source for alcohol they consumed.

Underage Drinking is Dangerous

There is a range of risks and negative consequences. Underage drinking:

  • Causes many deaths. Each year, 4,358 young people die in alcohol-related deaths as a result of underage drinking (car crashes, homicides, alcohol poisoning, falls, burns, drowning and suicides).
  • Causes many injuries. In 2011, there were approximately 188,000 emergency room visits by people under 21 for injuries and other conditions related to alcohol.
  • Impairs judgment. Drinking can lead to poor decisions about engaging in risky behavior, including drinking and driving, sexual activity (such as unprotected sex) and aggressive or violent behavior.
  • Increases the risk of physical and sexual assault. Underage drinkers are more likely to carry out or be the victim of a physical or sexual assault after drinking than others their age who do not drink.
  • Increases the risk of alcohol problems later in life. Research shows that people who start drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to meet the criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives.

Other Risk Factors:

  • Teen brains are more vulnerable to alcohol. Research shows that the teen brain doesn’t fully develop until 25Alcohol can alter this development, potentially affecting brain structure and function. This may cause cognitive or learning problems and/or make the brain more prone to alcohol dependence. This is especially risky when people start drinking heavily at young ages.
  • Mixing alcohol and prescription medicine is especially dangerous. It can cause nausea and vomiting, headaches, drowsiness, fainting, loss of coordination and puts you at risk for internal bleeding, heart problems and difficulties breathing.
  • Alcohol and marijuana is also a dangerous combination, significantly impairing judgment. The level of intoxication and secondary effects experienced can be unpredictable. Learn more >

What Parents Can Do

Parents, you hold tremendous influence on whether your child decides to drink or not. Be clear to your teen that you disapprove of underage drinking. Talk often about the dangers of alcohol (see below for tips on talking). Here are other things you can do:

  • If you choose to drink, model responsible drinking behavior.
    • Sometimes we unintentionally send kids the message that we need alcohol to cope with problems or have a good time. After a long, stressful day, instead of pouring yourself a glass of wine or beer, try modeling healthy behavior like deep breathing, exercise or stretching. Find ways to celebrate without alcohol.
    • Research shows that a child with a parent who binge drinks is much more likely to binge drink than a child whose parents do not binge drink.
    • If you are struggling with a drug or alcohol problem, reach out for help.
  • Do not make alcohol available to your child.
  • Be actively involved in your child’s life and have regular conversations with your teen about what’s going on and how she/he is feeling.
  • Get to know your child’s friends – as well as their parents/caregivers.
  • Encourage your teen to participate in healthy and fun activities that do not involve alcohol. If your child seeks new challenges, guide him/her toward healthy risks.
  • Kids ages 11-14 see approximately 1,000 alcohol ads a year. Discuss what you see and help put context around the alcohol messaging your child receives from friends and the media.

Talk Often

The best thing you can do is communicate regularly with your teen. Here’s how:

  • Try to preserve a position of objectivity and openness. If you want to have a productive conversation with your teen, try to keep an open mind and remain curious and calm. That way, your child is more likely to be receptive to what you have to say.
  • Ask open-ended questions. These are questions that elicit more than just a “yes” or “no” response from your teen and will lead to a more engaging conversation.
  • Let your teen know you hear her. Use active listening and reflect back what you are hearing from your teen — either verbatim, or just the sentiment. For example, I’m hearing that you feel overwhelmed, and that you think drinking helps you relax. Is that right?”
  • Discuss the negative effects of alcohol, and what that means in terms of mental and physical health, safety and making good decisions. Talk about the long-term effects.
  • If you’re child’s interested in drinking, ask her why – and what might happen if she does. This gets your teen to think about her future, what her boundaries are around drinking – and some of the possible negative consequences (she may be late to practice, do something stupid in front of her friends, feel hungover.) It will also give you insight into what’s important to her.
  • Offer empathy and compassion. Let your child know you understand. The teen years can be tough. Acknowledge that everyone struggles sometimes, but alcohol is not a useful or healthy way to cope with problems. Let your child know that he/she can trust you.
  • Remind your child that you are there for support and guidance – and that it’s important to you that she/he is healthy and happy and makes safe choices.
  • If there is a history of addiction or alcoholism in your family, then your child has a much greater risk of developing a problem. Be aware of this elevated risk and discuss it with your child regularly, as you would with any disease. Learn more >
  • Is there a problem? Keep an eye on how your child is coping. Does he or she seem withdrawn or uninterested in the usual activities? These are signs that your child might be hiding something or need some guidance.

If You’re Throwing a Party:

  • Supervise all parties to make sure there is no alcohol – and make sure your teens know the rules ahead of time.
  • Set a start and end time for the party.
  • Make sure an adult is at home during the party and regularly checking in.

If Your Teen is Attending a Party:

  • Know where your child will be. Call the parents in advance to verify the occasion and location and that there will be supervision.
  • Indicate your expectations to your child and the parent hosting the party.
  • If the activity seems inappropriate, express concern and keep your child home.
  • Assure your child that he/she can call you to be picked up whenever needed.
  • Use this sample contract as a guide to establish rules about drugs and alcohol.

If you are worried about your child’s drinking or drug use, please call our Parent Toll-Free Helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373) to speak with a trained and caring specialist.

Wishing you and your family a safe and healthy summer.


Related Links:

  • #GotYourBack helps teens identify the signs of alcohol poisoning and empowers them to take action to help a friend – and even save a life. Learn more >
  • Shelby Allen’s life was tragically cut short by alcohol poisoning after a night of binge drinking. Read her story >
  • helps people assess their drinking patterns to see if alcohol is harming their health. Visit >
  • Police Chief Asks Parents to Face the Realities of Teen Drinking (The Washington Post) Learn more >
  • More Than One Million Full-Time College Students Consume Alcohol on Average Day (Join Together) Learn more >
  • Sober is the New Drunk: Why Millennials are Ditching Bar Crawls for Juice Crawls (The Guardian). Learn more >
  • Find out how to have meaningful, productive conversations with your teen about marijuana. Download our Marijuana Talk Kit >


Studies Suggest Parents Can Play Important Role in Preventing Teen Drinking


Two new studies suggest parents can play an important role in preventing teens from drinking, NPR reports.

One study in the journal Prevention Science finds parents who set effective and strict alcohol-related rules, while maintaining a warm and supportive family environment, reduce the risk of binge drinking in their teens. In the second study in the same journal, children who participated in a five-month, home-based alcohol prevention program while they were in third grade were significantly less likely to drink when they were in seventh grade, compared with children who were not in the program.

In the first study, researchers at Claremont Graduate University looked at data from a long-term study that followed more than 9,400 teens from 1994-1995 through 2008, when participants were in their 20s or early 30s. The teens’ parents were interviewed in the first year of the study.

The researchers found teens were more likely to binge drink if their parents did not monitor them and did not provide a supportive home environment. Researcher William Crano said parental monitoring and warmth are protective against drinking, but only if both factors are present.

How often parents drank predicted binge drinking in their children, the study found. The findings suggest prevention campaigns should target parents as well as teens, he said.


Senate Passes Bill Aimed at Combating Opioid Addiction; Obama Will Sign It

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a bill aimed at combating opioid addiction. The White House said President Obama will sign the legislation, Reuters reports.

The measure, called the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), passed 92-2. The U.S. House previously approved the bill. CARA aims to help communities develop treatment and overdose programs, the article notes. It also will provide training for emergency personnel in administering the overdose antidote naloxone, and will help communities buy it.

In a statement, the White House said while the bill falls far short of necessary funding, President Obama will sign it “because some action is better than none.”

“Today’s strong bipartisan vote is a victory for American families who are struggling with the disease of addiction,” bill co-sponsor Senator Rob Portman of Ohio said in a news release. “This is a historic moment, the first time in decades that Congress has passed comprehensive addiction legislation, and the first time Congress has ever supported long-term addiction recovery. This is also the first time that we’ve treated addiction like the disease that it is, which will help put an end to the stigma that has surrounded addiction for too long.”

Senator Charles Schumer of New York criticized the lack of funding for CARA. “This bill is like a Hollywood movie set – something that appears real on the surface but has no substance and no life behind its facade,” he said.


Nearly 10 Million Americans Say They Misused Opioid Medications in 2012-2013

Almost 10 million Americans say they misused opioid medications in 2012-2013, according to a new study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Nonmedical use of prescription opioids more than doubled over a 10-year period, the study found.

The researchers found in 2012-2013, 4.1 percent of the adult population misused prescription opioids, compared with 1.8 percent in 2001-2002. This means they used the drugs without a prescription, or not as prescribed (in greater amounts, more often, or longer than prescribed) in the past year.

The study found that more than 11 percent of adults said they used prescription opioids nonmedically at some point in their lives, compared with 4.7 percent a decade earlier. In addition, 2.1 million adults meet the criteria for prescription opioid addiction.

“The increasing misuse of prescription opioid pain relievers poses a myriad of serious public health consequences,” Nora D. Volkow, MD, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said in a news release. “These include increases in opioid use disorders and related fatalities from overdoses, as well as the rising incidence of newborns who experience neonatal abstinence syndrome. In some instances, prescription opioid misuse can progress to intravenous heroin use with consequent increases in risk for HIV, hepatitis C and other infections among individuals sharing needles.”

People most likely to misuse opioids were men, those with annual incomes less than $70,000, those previously married, and with a high school education or less. Rates were higher among whites and Native Americans, and those living in the Midwest and West.

The study appears in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

“Given the dramatic increase in nonmedical use of prescription opioids, it is important that clinicians and patients also recognize the potent interaction of opioids with alcohol and other sedative-hypnotic drugs – an interaction that can be lethal,” said NIAAA Director George F. Koob, PhD.


Heroin’s Back

If you’ve seen the news lately, you may have noticed that heroin is back in a big way.

Communities across the country – regardless of geographic location or economic status – are experiencing an alarming uptick in deaths related to heroin overdose. So why is this happening? Why are so many teens becoming addicted to heroin in this day and age, when it seems nearly everyone knows the dangers of this drug? It’s beginning with something you might have at home right now. Nearly half of young people who inject heroin start by abusing prescription drugs.

To help you understand how the transition happens and what you should be aware of to keep your family and community safe, we’ve developed an interactive infographic. Follow the journey of a teen; hear stories from families who have been down this road; and find the tools you need to take action – whether you’re a parent, health care provider, educator or community member.

Rx to Heroin

Need help with a family member’s substance abuse problem? Call our toll-free helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE and talk to a specialist today.


Fatal Drug Overdoses Play a Role in Rise in Accidental Deaths

The rate of accidental deaths in the United States is rising, fueled in part by the opioid painkiller and heroin epidemic, according to a new report by the National Safety Council.

The report found poisonings, largely from drug overdoses and prescription opioids, are the leading cause of preventable death among adults ages 25 to 64.

More than 136,000 people died accidentally in the United States in 2014, the highest number ever recorded, NPR reports. The accidental death rate increased 4.2 percent from the previous year and 57 percent since 1992.

More than 42,000 people died from overdose and accidental poisoning in 2014—quadruple the number of poisoning deaths in 1998. In contrast, motor vehicle crashes killed 35,398 in 2014—22 percent fewer than a decade ago. In 1980, more than 53,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes.

Deaths from falls, such as slipping on a kitchen or bathroom floor, also have increased significantly in recent years, reaching almost 32,000 in 2014.