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Castro enlists parents, birthday reminders in moderation campaign

In response to a rise in pre-gaming activities and incidences of alcohol poisoning, the University encouraged parents in a recent newsletter to talk to their Stanford students about alcohol use.

Rapid consumption of hard alcohol is becoming increasingly popular on campus, said Ralph Castro, head of Stanford’s Substance Abuse Prevention Program. He said up to 10 percent of students on campus are heavy episodic drinkers. The number of alcohol poisoning cases is also on the rise—Stanford saw 61 emergency-room visits last year compared to 37 in the 2006-07 academic year.

“One hundred percent of the students who have gone to the ER have consumed excessive amounts of hard liquor, and about 90 percent had been pre-gaming,” Castro said.

However, research has shown that parents can have a big impact on their children’s drinking habits in college. The finding comes from research conducted by a consortium of schools, along with the company that manages AlcoholEdu.

Castro believes many parents who grew up in the 1970s may be hesitant to discuss alcohol issues with their children.

“Parents came of age when alcohol and drugs were used in larger quantities,” he said. “They may be afraid to answer [questions like], ‘Who are you to tell me what to do when you were smoking pot and doing LSD?’”

However, Castro believes, the pre-gaming culture puts students today at a higher risk of alcohol poisoning than during their parents’ generation.

In addition to encouraging parents to engage in dialogue with their children, the Substance Abuse Prevention Program has also launched various initiatives this year, including a dorm outreach program and a 21st-birthday card initiative.

“Basically it says, ‘Congratulations that you’re 21, but just because you’re 21 doesn’t mean you can magically drink a lot more alcohol,” Castro said.

The cards are e-mailed to students a few days before their birthday to remind them to drink responsibly.

Castro and his team will be available throughout Parents’ Weekend next month to discuss drinking and alcohol issues with any concerned parents.

  • Current student

    Well, everyone knows that LSD and pot are much safer drugs than alcohol. That’s what I’d tell my kids!