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Warnings involving drinking

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Dear Straight Talk: My daughter is heading off to college. She has a history of drinking and I’m worried. I know that many kids die each year from alcohol poisoning. What can I say to instill caution? I also worry about the hookup scene. Any suggestions for warning her in that regard?

— Worried Mom in Colfax

Erin, 20, Grass Valley: I spent a college holiday getting my heart defibrillated on the beach and waking up in ER. I remember nothing. I almost drowned, my heart stopped. My “friends” were too inebriated to help. Thank God someone called 911. I had stopped drinking at what I thought was my limit, then I was handed a water bottle, told it was water, so I chugged it. I spit it out after I felt the “burn” but it was too late. Things went foggy, then nothing. I now trust nobody around my drink and I cut off drinking way before my limit — if I drink at all.

Ochatre, 23, Kampala, Uganda: Four years ago, I was among a batch of intelligent high school friends in whom great community hope was placed. We got recruited into our country’s top universities, many under scholarship. Once there, excitement, peer pressure, and desire for experience exposed us to all kinds of bad habits, alcohol taking the lead.

Notable among my friends was “Phillip.” Tall and handsome, Phillip was one of the greatest guys to know, very charming, funny and caring. His family revered him — despite his new behaviors of taking drugs, smoking and drinking. One Tuesday evening as I was playing rugby, Phillip approached me to borrow a pen as he headed to his evening lecture. This is my last memory of Phillip. He died at 5:34 a.m. the next day, falling off the stairs because he was so drunk. On graduation day — just this February — memories of my good friend kept flooding in and I wished he had lived his life differently. I believe asking your daughter, “What are your plans after college?” will cover more than you can imagine.

Chris, 25, Washington, D.C.: I was caught speeding during high school. There was no alcohol involved, but the judge deemed we were driving as if drunk. We were sent to a morgue, an emergency room, and a MADD seminar. It really impacted my drinking behavior. I highly recommend you contact MADD about their programs at www.madd.org.

Dear Worried Mom: Your conversations do make a difference! As emphasized by the panel’s sharing, drinking is the major culprit in college hookups, rapes, arrests, alcoholism, early death — not to mention being illegal for most incoming students. A recent Penn State study shows that drinking is significantly reduced when parents speak calmly with their kids about the dangers. The most effective time for such conversations is before college starts. Don’t delay. A top parent handbook for how to communicate effectively is from Tufts. I beg you read it at ase.tufts.edu/healthed/documents/parentHandbook.pdf. — Lauren

Straight Talk is a non-profit that tackles youth issues with youth advice. Visit www.straighttalktnt.org or write P.O. Box 1974 Sebastopol, CA 95473.