Talk to students about excessive drinking

Before you send your child off to college next month, please have this life-saving conversation. Tell that child about Jenna Foellmi.

The 20-year-old Winona (Minn.) State University biochemistry major died from alcohol poisoning after playing the drinking game beer pong as she celebrated passing her last exam of the semester. She had been a dean's list student and a high school member of Students Against Destructive Decisions.

Jenna's death is no anomaly. A new study shows hundreds of U.S. college students are drinking themselves into oblivion every year. From 1999 to 2005, the number of alcohol poisoning deaths per year nearly doubled. During that time-frame, at least 157 college-age persons – those 18 to 23 – drank themselves to death.

If you're a parent sending a child off to college, those statistics should alarm you. So should Jenna Foellmi's story.

You see, Jenna wasn't a party girl. Said her mother Kate: “She was the one we never had to worry about. I remember calling her up and saying … I'm so glad you have your head screwed on straight.”

Yet the coroner who did Jenna's autopsy said her blood-alcohol level was “not compatible with life.”

Alcohol poisoning isn't the only drinking risk for students. At least 1,700 annually die from alcohol-related injuries.

College is for learning, not for dying. But drinking deaths are such a problem colleges have courses to educate students about the dangers.

Parents, you must get involved too. Talk to your children about excessive drinking. Tell them not to do it. Tell them to seek help for themselves or others if they do. This talk could save their lives.