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Taking Care of Ourselves & Each Other

Health & Well-Being

Orange trees produce fruit in front of the John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn building, home of SIEPR, the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. Hoover Tower can be seen in the background. Credit: Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

A Letter to Parents/Guardians Regarding Alcohol and Drugs

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September 2022

Dear Stanford Parent/Guardian,

Today, we write to share Stanford’s efforts to educate students about alcohol and drug issues, and we look forward to building a partnership in ensuring the health and safety of your student. We strongly encourage you to talk early and often about alcohol and drug use with your student during their time here at Stanford.

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Access to Alcohol and Drugs

Although the legal drinking age in California is 21, access to alcohol can be a reality of life at Stanford, just as it is at colleges and universities nationwide. The good news is that surveys show many Stanford students drink moderately to not at all. Nevertheless, every year a number of students are involved in serious high-risk drinking incidents – that sometimes require medical attention.  Given your student’s limited time living on campus, they may be particularly at risk having little experience with alcohol and unprepared for the freedoms of college, especially coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Drug use among students is rare, but the consequences can be devastating.  Stanford actively educates students on the dangers of illicit drug use and we have designated educational interventions for cannabis use.  Also, Counseling and Psychological Services is hiring dedicated alcohol and drug counselors to better serve the community and provide support for students grappling with these issues or looking to sustain their sobriety.

Research shows that by having a frank, face-to-face conversation, you can have a positive impact on your student’s approach to alcohol and drugs. To this point, we have created a Parent/Guardian Guide with information, tips, conversation starters, and resources to help you get the most out of those conversations.

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Seven Things

Here are seven things we want you to know about Stanford’s programs, education and policies:

  1. Students are expected to abide by university policies and California laws. Stanford launched an updated Student Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy this year.
  2. First and second-year students are required to take an online alcohol and drug education course that stress individual and collective responsibility.
  3. Stanford offers substance-free events and activities on weekend nights, across campus and neighborhoods, so that no student feels isolated by a decision to abstain from drinking alcohol.
  4. Substance-free housing is offered for upperclass students and students who want support for addiction recovery can join the Stanford Collegiate Recovery Community.
  5. 24/7 support is available in the residence halls from student resident assistants (RAs) as well as professional residence directors, alcohol and drug educators and academic directors. Vaden Health Center offers professional counseling, medical services and well-being services.
  6. Marijuana (cannabis in all forms) is prohibited on the Stanford campus, regardless of a California state law that legalized recreational use and possession for people 21 years of age and older a few years ago. Since Stanford receives federal funding, the university must abide by federal law that still defines cannabis as a controlled substance.
  7. Stanford has a multitude of educational programs, services and resources for students regarding alcohol and other drugs.
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Negative Impacts of Binge Drinking

We encourage you to discuss the potential negative impacts of binge drinking in particular. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism offers information and advice.

Here are three specific points to emphasize:

  • Drinking hard liquor in the form of shots is dangerous and can lead to alcohol poisoning and death.
  • Excessive drinking can (and does) result in legal citations. Stanford students are not immune from prosecution and are commonly cited for a) being a minor (under 21) in possession of alcohol; b) being intoxicated in a public space, which could involve being arrested and taken to jail or a sobering station; and c) possession of false identification.
  • Violations of campus community standards, such as sexual assault and misconduct, often involve excessive alcohol use. While alcohol does not cause or excuse acts of sexual violence, it can be used to facilitate assaultive behavior. We encourage everyone to be educated on our policies and procedures and to utilize campus resources to help prevent and address these issues. More information on sexual assault support and resources is available.

We believe firmly that by openly and frankly talking about substance use and expectations, you can help us create a protective campus culture of personal responsibility and good decision-making.

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Keep Talking

But don’t stop there. At regular times during the year, continue the conversation. Ask, questions like:

  • “What did you do last night?”
  • "What fun things are you finding to do?”
  • “Tell me about your friends.”
  • “Are you feeling connected to others?”

The answers to these questions can reveal many things such as feeling isolated and, thus, vulnerable. In our experience, parents/guardians are best able to detect if something is amiss.

Thank you for your partnership in this effort. Curbing irresponsible use of alcohol and drugs is a high priority for Stanford. Please contact the Office of Substance Use Programs Education & Resources at 650.725.5947 for more information, questions or concerns.


Susie Brubaker-Cole
Vice Provost for Student Affairs

Ralph J. Castro     
Associate Dean of Students
Director, Office of Substance Use Programs, Education & Resources