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University Counseling Center

The Student Suspected of Substance Abuse/Addiction

Alcohol is the preferred drug on college campuses and is the most widely used psychoactive drug. Alcohol abusers in college populations tend to abuse other drugs, both prescription and illicit. Patterns of use are affected by fads and peer pressure.

The effects of alcohol on the user are well known. Student alcohol abuse is most often identified by faculty and staff when irresponsible, unpredictable behavior affects the learning, work, or living environment (i.e. drunk and disorderly in class, or office), or when a combination of the health and social impairments associated with alcohol abuse sabotages student performance. Because of the denial that exists in most substance abusers, it is important to express your concern about the student not in terms of suspicions about alcohol and other drugs, but in terms of specific changes in behavior or performance.

Signs that a student may have an alcohol problem:

  • Failure to fulfill major work, school, or home responsibilities.
  • Specific school problems such as poor attendance, low grades, and/or recent disciplinary action.
  • Drinking in situations that are physically dangerous, such as driving a car.
  • Having recurring alcohol-related legal problems, such as being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or for physically hurting someone while drunk.
  • Continued drinking despite having ongoing relationship problems that are caused or worsened by drinking.
  • Mood changes such as temper flare-ups, irritability, and defensiveness.
  • Physical or mental problems such as memory lapses, poor concentration, bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination, or slurred speech.

Signs that a student may have a drug problem:

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms (e.g., nausea, restlessness, insomnia, concentration problems, sweating, tremors, anxiety).
  • After reducing or stopping chronic drug use, taking a drug in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
  • Spending a lot of time getting, using, and recovering from the effects of a drug.
  • Abandoning previously-enjoyed activities, such as hobbies, sports, and socializing, in order to use drugs.
  • Neglecting school, work, or family responsibilities.
  • Taking risks while high, such as starting a fight or engaging in unprotected sex.
  • Continuing to use despite physical problems (e.g., blackouts, flashbacks, infections, injuries) or psychological problems (e.g., mood swings, depression, anxiety, delusions, paranoia) the drug has caused.
  • Legal troubles because of drug use, such as arrests for disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, or stealing to support drug habit.

What You Can Do:

  • Treat the situation as serious.
  • Confront the student with his/her behavior that is of concern and encourage the student to seek help.
  • Address the substance abuse issue if the student is open and willing
  • Offer support and concern for the student’s overall well-being
  • Recognize that denial is a powerful aspect of substance problems and that it can involved conscious or unconscious lying and distorting the truth.
  • Make a referral to an appropriate helping department or agency (e.g., Counseling Center (275-3113)
  • Maintain contact with the student after a referral is made.

Don’t:

  • Convey judgment or criticism about the student’s substance abuse
  • Make allowances for the student’s irresponsible behavior
  • Ignore signs of intoxication in the classroom or workplace
  • Assume problem is temporary – minimize symptoms

Guide Table of Content

Addendum