Why Every Parent Sending a Kid Off to College Should Read this Book First

book cover of Smashed by Koren Zailckas

Smashed is the first book of Koren Zailckas, a former student of Syracuse University in New York State. Koren showed an aptitude for downing astonishing amounts of alcohol early, starting when she was 14 years old. Her first alcoholic blackout and hospitalization occurred when she was just 16.

When she moved away from the Boston suburbs to go to college, that’s when her drinking started in earnest. She planned her college schedule around her drinking and her hangovers. Gradually, she progressed from drinking four days a week to six. She chose a sorority seemingly dedicated to drinking and took the kind of risks that have ended the lives of other college students, like climbing on the roof of a fraternity house while dead drunk.

After graduation, she moved to New York and rededicated herself to drinking. Her friends were always drinkers and drinking to blackout was the norm, as was the inevitable hangover the next day.

It finally occurred to her how much destruction was resulting from her drinking and she began a successful turn toward sobriety.

Koren’s story is not just about her drinking—it’s also about the other sorority and fraternity members, college students and young professionals in New York and elsewhere for whom drinking to oblivion is a way of life.

The Real Life of College Students

Talk about sobering! Koren’s book is a sobering tale for any parent who has sent their children off to college.

Parents want to believe and trust their children. They pin their hopes and dreams on these bright young people who have their whole lives ahead of them. They don’t want to think of their beloved children drinking the night away four or five nights a week in their dorm room, fraternity or bar.

Parents believe that it’s “not my child” who will be injured or even killed in an alcohol-related incident. Each year, more than 1,800 of them will be dead wrong. Their child will die as a result of their own drinking or someone else’s drunken actions. Another 700,000 will suffer an assault by another student who has been drinking, and close to 100,000 will report a sexual assault or date rape.

In Many Cases, Drugs Are Added to the Mix

Of course, many students are not limiting themselves to alcohol. Marijuana and the stimulant Adderall can be found on any campus and there’s always someone around willing to distribute harder drugs like heroin, cocaine or synthetics. In 2008, a huge drug investigation resulted in 75 San Diego State students being arrested for selling marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and Ecstasy. In 2010, five Columbia University students were arrested for selling cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy, Adderall and LSD from fraternities and dorm rooms.

It’s hard for any parent to face the idea that a beloved child could be wasting his or her life drinking or using drugs but the statistics show that it is happening in every corner of our country, every day. It would be wise for every parent to remain vigilant, even after a young person leaves home for college. If you suspect that studies could be taking a back seat to drinking or drug use, consider making an unannounced trip to visit. That may be the only way to get the real story.

Some young people—like Koren—manage to make their ways back to sobriety without formal rehabilitation programs. Others will make promise after promise to cut back, only drink on weekends or quit altogether and never deliver on those promises. The drug rehab program at Narconon Ojai can make the difference between one more failure and the success of a bright, new sober life.

Find out how the program at Narconon Ojai has helped tens of thousands of individuals regain their sobriety and productivity. This 100% drug-free program can help you or someone you care about see life differently, without drugs or alcohol at last. Call today to learn how it can help you or someone you love.


Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.