Parents Still Have Influence on Their College Student's Decision to Use Drugs and Alcohol


December 16, 2008
Angelo M. Valente
Executive Director
Phone: 201.919.1136


Parents Still Have Influence on Their College Student's Decision to Use Drugs and Alcohol

MILLBURN, NJ—College students returning home for winter break are less likely to binge drink, abuse prescription drugs, or use marijuana while under their parents' watchful eyes, according to a study released today by the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ). The survey of New Jersey college students was conducted by Survey U, a New York based research firm, dedicated exclusively to measuring the opinions of U.S. college students.

The study was conducted in two parts; initially in August 2008 to gather substance abuse patterns while college students were mostly home from school and having face to face interaction with their parents. The second wave of the study was conducted at the beginning of the Fall 2008 college semester.

This research uncovered some very important information about the continuing importance of parental influence, even as children enter college, explained, Angelo M. Valente, executive director of the PDFNJ.

Valente said the role of parents in substance abuse prevention begins during a child's early years and can start with the simple act of sharing family meals. This study found that college students, who reported eating dinners "always or often" with their family during their high school years, are less likely to use prescription drugs without a prescription.

Eighty-three percent of the New Jersey college students participating in this study indicated that they feel that the opinion of their parents is "very or somewhat" important when it comes to their decision whether or not to use drugs. Students that value their parent's opinion are three and a half times less likely to have tried marijuana.

In keeping with national trends of increased abuse of prescription drugs, 18-percent of college students in New Jersey reported taking a prescription drug without a prescription and five-and-a-half percent of students reported getting "hooked" on prescription medicine or taking a lot more of it than they were supposed to.

Valente noted that over the counter medications are also being abused at alarming levels. He explained that ten-percent of college students reported using over-the-counter sleep or diet pills and forty percent of these same students indicated that they utilized these over the counter medications to deal with stress.

Sleep and diet pills are not the only over the counter medications being abused by New Jersey college students. Nineteen percent of the participating students reported using over-the-counter cough and cold medications to deal with stress, while 15-percent indicated that they use these over-the-counter medications to get high or for partying.

Among all drug and alcohol abuse rates, New Jersey college students overestimated the amount their peers were actually abusing. For example, college students believed that 56-percent of their peers were abusing prescription drugs, although the study found that only 18-percent of these same college students reported this activity.

New Jersey college students were divided about their support of the recent Amethyst Initiative, a movement by approximately 120 college presidents to lower the current legal drinking age of 21 to 18. Twenty-four percent of the college students surveyed indicated strong support for lowering the drinking age, while 18-percent strongly opposed this measure. A clear majority, 57-percent, were somewhat supportive, somewhat opposed or neutral on lowering the drinking age to 18.

Marijuana is still utilized as a gateway drug for many college students. According to the study, 80-percent of students who use marijuana have done so in advance of abusing other drugs. Also, over half, 52-percent, combined marijuana with alcohol and an overwhelming majority, 93-percent of the students indicated that when taking marijuana they combined this drug with other illicit or street drugs.

Based on the results of the survey, PDFNJ will collaborate with New Jersey colleges and universities to create a statewide public awareness campaign to inform parents, of college students, on their continuing influence of their children's decision to use drugs and alcohol.

Full study results are available at

Best known for its statewide anti-drug advertising campaign, the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey is a private not-for-profit coalition of professionals from the communications, corporate and government communities whose collective mission is to reduce demand for illicit drugs in New Jersey through media communication. To date, more than $50 million in broadcast time and print space has been donated to the Partnership's New Jersey campaign, making it the largest Public Service advertising campaign in New Jersey's history. Since its inception the Partnership has garnered over 46 Advertising and Public Relations Awards from National, Regional & Statewide Media Organizations