Advice and Tips for Parents: Helping Kids Navigate Drugs and Alcohol on Campus

August 30, 2023
real talk with susan and kristina podcast

In this episode of Real Talk, KJK Student Defense Attorneys Susan Stone and Kristina Supler talk about when and how parents should talk to their college bound kids about drugs and alcohol, practical advice about drugs on campus, and tips on how parents can better monitor their child’s academics while on campus.

3 Main Points:

  • When and how parents should talk to their college bound kids about drugs and alcohol
  • Navigating drugs on campus
  • Tips and legal information for parents to monitor their child while on campus


Show Notes:

  • (01:15)  When should parents talk to their kids about drugs and alcohol
  • (03:57)  Tips to help parents have conversations with their kids about drugs and alcohol
  • (04:31)  Borrowing another students medication and Fentanyl
  • (05:11)  Dangers of mixing alcohol with medication
  • (07:05)  Do you know the campus culture your student is going to be in?
  • (08:34)  How to tell if your child is doing well in their classes
  • (09:06)  Why parents need to get a FERPA
  • (10:27)  Is your child a good fit for college?  Are they ready for college?
  • (12:02)  The Red Zone:  Is your child at risk?



Susan Stone: I love having guests and actually I do too. I know I love talking to our guests. But sometimes I feel like our listeners miss out on what makes us. And that’s just the two of us talking to other. 

Kristina Supler: I have fun talking to you. And I think that we often,We have such different and unique life experiences and together I think we just have, interesting insights.

Susan Stone: So you ready to talk? Let’s talk. Okay. What are we talking about? I wanna talk about school starting. Kids are going off to college. Let’s have a real conversation. What parents should say to their students about drugs and alcohol. 

Kristina Supler: Let’s. I think it’s a good time of year for us to have this conversation because families are busy planning for the future. And sometimes that’s when you just overlook these sort of foundational building block conversations with your kids.

Susan Stone: I think the best place to start is really being honest with yourself where your student is with regard to their relationship with drugs and alcohol in high school. So for example, some kids, and I don’t wanna label them, but some kids are not using drugs or drinking alcohol. They’re just not. 

Kristina Supler: Oh, absolutely.

I think sometimes when there’s discussion about these issues, it’s easy to paint with a broad brush and say all high schoolers are partying and drinking and using drugs and having sex and engaging in everything over the top. But that’s not always true. 

Susan Stone: That’s not true. So for those students, there’s gotta be one conversation about, look, you’re going to college, you’re obviously gonna be exposed to this.

You probably have already made choices that are good choices. Keep up the good work. 

Kristina Supler: This makes me think also about being realistic. We say this a lot, but it’s true. Be realistic about who your child is for better and for worse. In terms of how likely are they to succumb to peer pressure?

Are they, is your child of the personality type of like more is always better? Or do you have a child who’s more reserved and maybe shy and unlikely to jump into social situations. 

Susan Stone: And anybody can be in a social situation and decide to make a choice to have a drink or experiment with something. I, and again, I hate the idea of labeling students, but anybody at any time can make a choice that doesn’t turn out to end well. 

Kristina Supler: I’m imagining some of our listeners saying, okay ladies, sure. You are assuming that parents have accurate insight into, how their children behave socially and maybe not all parents do, right? I agree. Agree. I mean, I, I,I think it would be, it would actually be foolish for us to assume that we know everything our own kids are doing. But I think you still know fundamentally who your child is in terms of tolerance 

Susan Stone: and things like that.

I agree. And I’ve also heard stories of students who were big partier in high school, got to college and really grew up and buckled down. So the reverse can be true. Just because you have a big partier in high school does not mean you’re gonna have a partier in college. And just because you have a kid who doesn’t party in high school doesn’t mean that they’re gonna stay that way in college.

So I think the conversations must be had. So let’s just highlight some of our favorite tips for parents. 

Kristina Supler: I think. first of all, when talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol in college, it’s just important to have a conversation about how there’s more danger out there. And not to be fatalistic about what’s out there in the world.

But in this day and age, things are being recorded. The danger of drugs, it’s so much more intense than it ever used to be. 

Susan Stone: I’ll give you an example. Fentanyl. Yeah, that was not a problem when I went to college. Did that in, was that on your campus? 

Kristina Supler: No. Oh gosh, no. No. 

Susan Stone: So we do know that there, every year there are students who borrow a Friend’s a. A D H D medicine, for example, and the Adderall. The Adderall. And it’s laced with fentanyl. It’s really important to talk to your students that you are never, ever to use anybody’s prescription drugs. If they need a prescription drug, they have to see a doctor and get their own prescription drug. That to me, is a rule that you just have to pound in your student’s head.

Please don’t ever borrow anybody’s drugs. 

Kristina Supler: I’m also thinking about, we’ve had so many cases where, the students involved were experiencing some form of depression or anxiety and just navigating mental health issues. And in this day and age, it’s fairly well known, but you can’t assume everyone knows, mixing those prescription medications with alcohol can have really dangerous consequences. 

Susan Stone: including feeling more depressed.

Because alcohol is a depressant. So I think it’s very important if you know your student is on various medications, to maybe even have a conversation with your student’s doctor and get the facts straight. What will happen? Does it reduce the effectiveness of the medication? Does it increase depression?

Education is the key there and a conversation about it is the key. Can we just talk about binge drinking now? That was around when I went to college. 

Kristina Supler: Yes, indeed. Changed there and it sure is still here to stay, unfortunately. But I think that,with binge drinking, again, this idea of the hookup and everything that happens when students quote unquote party.

We’re just in a different day and age now. And some of that, I think there’s many students out there who recognize that, but there’s also many who don’t. 

Susan Stone: I’ll tell you the difference that is new. I don’t remember people planning on drinking so much that they became blackout or brownout drunk. That language of being blackout, brownout, gray out, that was not part of my college language. 

Kristina Supler: When I was in school. I mean, I definitely had friends who talked about oh, I was so blacked out last night. But I don’t remember anyone. going out with the goal of becoming blacked out. I, that’s definitely, I don’t know, I guess something that’s quote unquote newer. I don’t know. It’s certainly not anything I experienced in college.

The other thing that I’m thinking about though, as we’re having this discussion is just the importance of being aware of the campus culture for the school where your child picked up. I agree. not all schools are alike. 

Susan Stone: Some schools are big drug schools. Some schools are big drinking schools. Some schools don’t have the same level of party atmosphere. And by the way, you can send your kid to the biggest party school.

But that doesn’t mean that they’re gonna have that kind of friend group too. 

Kristina Supler: Absolutely. Because if you think about it, also, many of the schools where, perhaps they’re in cities, but not even necessarily if there’s just more access to interesting things in the community. There’s more for students to do other than party.


Susan Stone: agree. They’re busier. There’s more cultural outlets, more athletic outlets, more restaurants. I know as I’m looking at schools for my rising senior. It’s very important for her to be in a city where there’s great food. She’s quite the foodie. 

Kristina Supler: Amen. 

Susan Stone: So let’s talk about school. 

Kristina Supler: academic consequences, right? Yeah. 

Susan Stone: And the red flags for parents. You send Johnny, or Janie, or Barry, whatever name you have for your kid off to school. How do you know if they’re drinking too much? You’re not there. 

Kristina Supler: Yeah. That’s such a. You’re right, you’re not there, so you don’t know.

But I still think that as parents, I mean it with mothers or fathers in your gut, you know your kid. And we often have that sense, could something be off? So if you’re calling your kid, texting your child and you’re just not hearing back until you 2, 2, 3, you’re asking them how’s your economics class?

And they don’t really have anything terribly substantive to say. You think, gee, are you really going to class? What’s going on here? 

Susan Stone: Look at the grades. 

Kristina Supler: Oh, that. I think one of the most important things that we should encourage our listeners out there to be on top of parents of college students, make sure you get assigned FERPA release.

Otherwise you can wear your little heart out, call the school a gazillion times. You’re not gonna get any information. 

Susan Stone: And you still won’t get information. Remember, this is college. So we do every year have parents who call us and say, why didn’t the RA tell me that my student is drinking too much? That call is not gonna happen.

Kristina Supler: Those are some of the, I think most difficult calls we get is they cry for help from parents after sometimes it’s too late. And the anxiety and the anger, like, how could no one tell me? And we have to be the cold callous lawyers and say, legally, the school wasn’t required to tell you anything.

And every year we get so many of those phone calls. It’s, 

Susan Stone: it’s hard. 

that being said, If you need to make an executive decision. And you find that your student is not hitting the ground running, and the drinking and the partying are really getting in the way of success, it’s okay to pull a withdrawal and say you’re not there for the right reason.

Get your head together. Come home. Maybe get therapy. And we’ll evaluate whether you’re at the right school or whether you’re really ready. 

Kristina Supler: Yeah, and it’s Plans change, right? just thinking about the future and our hopes and dreams for our children. Again, so many people say, oh, such and such university was my dream school.

If you’re not going to class, if you’re drinking too much, whatever the circumstance may be, if those things are happening, maybe it’s not the right place for you. And it’s okay to withdraw from school to transfer, to take some time off. you don’t. There’s nothing wrong with, thinking about maybe a leave of absence for a semester.

Those are all important things for families to keep in mind. 

Susan Stone: I do want parents out there to be aware of the withdrawal deadlines. 

Kristina Supler: Oh, yeah. Good point. Let’s talk about this more. Because every school can have different deadlines, and once the deadline’s passed, It’s passed. 

Susan Stone: Right? So what that more specifically means if you can withdraw before a deadline, you don’t have a failing grade on the transcript or an incomplete, you just have a withdrawal.

The first couple weeks of college are the toughest for any student. And we all know that homesickness comes in. I say it takes until Thanksgiving break before you really know if something’s a good fit. But, just do a little more check-in. Not too much. But do a little, be a little more on top of things as parents. 

I would say. September, October, which also coincides with our Red Zone Talk. Hmm.why don’t you tell, remind our readers, I know we and our listeners out there what a Red Zone is. 

Kristina Supler: Sure. So the red zone is a hot topic of controversy. Is it a real thing? Is it not a real thing. But broadly speaking it, refers to periods of time on college campuses, colleges and universities, even high schools, where reports of sexual assaults increase. 

And so students all the way around are just at greater risk for having to navigate, behaviors that could lead to the Title IX office. 

Susan Stone: Our hope, to all of our parents out there and their students is they prepare and they’re packing up for college, is that everybody has a safe experience, a healthy experience, and a happy experience.

Because college is a great growing time. But if there’s a bump on the road, pay attention to your campus resources. 

Kristina Supler: It’s really important that parents and students alike understand what resources are available through a college and university, and then also in the community where the school is located.

Because, let’s face it, some schools have more readily available resources than others. But students need to know where they can turn to for help, in any type of situation. 

Susan Stone: And just like ET phone home. There’s gotta be that conversation if something goes wrong, just feel that you can keep the lines of communication open with your student.

I like this talk. This was a good way to help our listeners kick their students out of the nest. 

Kristina Supler: Food for thought. Until next time.