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University Counseling Center

Drug & Alcohol Abuse

How do I know if I’m abusing substances?

  • increased frequency of use
  • loss of control over frequency, duration and/or amount of use
  • drinking or using when you don’t intend to
  • having to drink or use more to get the same effect as before
  • using alcohol/drugs alone or secretive behaviors around use
  • increasingly using substances to cope with problems or to “escape”
  • needing to use substances regularly to be able to function socially, feel self-confident, less shy
  • substance use interferes with life activities
    • school (i.e., grades dropping, missing classes, coming to class stoned or with a hangover)
    • job (i.e., missing work, poor job performance)
    • relationships with family and friends
  • increased spending money on substance of choice
  • personality changes noted by self and others
  • getting into risky/dangerous behaviors, showing poor judgement
  • other people express concern about your use/ your behavior
  • legal trouble (i.e., DWI)

How do I know when substance abuse becomes severe?

  • loss of friends (except perhaps other substance abusers)
  • negative changes in appetite with possible weight loss
  • extreme mood swings, including anger and depression
  • obsessions about using or procuring substance when not under the influence
  • lying about substance use to friends and loved ones
  • “Blackouts” or loss of memory for times when under the influence
  • uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when not using (i.e., shakiness)
  • involvement in crime to support habit
  • loss of energy and general health
  • loss of ability to function in school or on the job
  • you are increasingly unable to believe your own denial and excuses

The above signs may help to give you a sense as to whether you or someone you know has a substance abuse problem; however, it is not meant o replace formal assessment.

Counseling/therapy help to:

  • clarify patterns of abuse
  • identify how ones life has been affected
  • create strategies to decrease use
  • identify related issues that may contribute to abuse
  • if necessary, refer to a more intensive treatment resource

Frequent use and abuse of substances can have a serious effect on a student’s academic and personal life. If you think that you are having difficulty controlling your use of alcohol or would like to talk to someone about your use, please contact the University Counseling Center at 275-2361.

Are You Worried About a Friend?

How do I know if someone is abusing drugs or alcohol?

You may not know if someone is abusing substances, but there are often red flags or warning signs. Here are some signs you might see when someone is experiencing problems with excessive substance use:

  • Talk among students about “the group drunk”
  • Stacks of beer cans in their room
  • Trash cans in hall are full of empty beer cans
  • Odor of alcohol/marijuana on the same person numerous times
  • Grades, class and study time reduced
  • Going out on week nights and returning under the influence
  • Sleeping in late – missing early classes
  • Bragging about drinking events or games
  • Inappropriate loudness
  • Belligerence when confronted about behavior
  • Secretive behavior around substances (i.e., hiding beer cans, sneaking drinks)
  • Evasive answers when asked about substance use
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Dramatic change in mood

If you are concerned about a friend, please contact the University Counseling Center at 275-2361 to talk with a staff member about how best to deal with the situation as well as get support for dealing with problems that may be a result of problem substance abuse.

Ways to talk to a friend who you are concerned about:

  • Talk in a non-judgmental way about your feelings concerning the person’s drinking.
  • If your friend denies that there is a problem, let him/her know what will happen if the drinking does not stop (i.e., you may choose to leave a romantic relationship, you may choose to move out of a roommate situation, etc.)
  • Expect that you may have a range of reactions from your friend including: denial, rationalizing to excuse the alcohol abuse, blaming others for problems, shame, anger, etc.
  • If your friend agrees to seek help, then work with him/her to get help as soon as possible through available campus or community resources including:
    • Your resident advisor (RA)
    • University Counseling Center……….275-3113

Adult Children of Alcoholics

Many college students believe that they are escaping from the problems of their alcoholic parent by leaving home and going to college. However, they eventually realize that these problems continue to affect them, even as an adult.

What is an Alcoholic Parent?

A parent whose excessive drinking interferes with his/her health, social, relational, family, or economic functioning.

Home Environment for Children of Alcoholic Parents

The family bears the burden of coping with the alcoholic parent and assisting him/her with facing the problem. The family may experience feelings of:

  • fear
  • guilt
  • anger/frustration
  • helplessness
  • confusion

The family feels anger and resentment towards an alcoholic parent who cannot maintain responsibility.

  • An Alcoholic parent may lose his/her job due to inefficient performance and absenteeism.
  • An Alcoholic parent constantly breaks promises made to children.

Older children experience role confusion

  • taking care of younger siblings, becoming a “parentified child”
  • worrying about their parents

Life is unpredictable and inconsistent:

  • Parents are fighting.
  • Alcohol produces mood fluctuations in the alcoholic parent.
  • Children make excuses for their alcoholic parents when they have not fulfilled their obligations.
  • Children often have fantasies of running away, disappearing.
  • Children are afraid to confide in anyone about their family situation. They have difficulty identifying and expressing their feelings.

Why the Family Will Not Speak Out

  • Denial of what is happening to their family.
  • Embarrassment about the reality of the situation.
  • Lack of knowledge about the impact of alcohol abuse.

Traits or Patterns of Behavior Associated with Adult Children of Alcoholics

(Adapted from the book “Adult Children of Alcoholics” by Janet Woititz)

  • Low self-esteem.
  • Difficulty expressing feelings.
  • Guessing what “normal” behavior is.
  • Difficulty building a healthy intimate relationship.
  • Feelings of isolation, aloneness, or being different from other people.
  • Difficulty having fun.
  • ConstantLY seeking approval and affirmation.
  • Being extremely responsible or irresponsible.
  • Over-reacting to changes in which they have no control of.
  • Difficulty following projects through from start to end.
  • Judging oneself harshly.
  • Lying unnecessarily.
  • Showing extreme loyalty even when it is not necessary.
  • Acting impulsively.

Counseling/Therapy can help to:

  • Clarify how your life has been affected by a parent’s drinking problem
  • Provide empathetic understanding of why you are experiencing difficulties presently
  • Create strategies to improve your day-to-day life (i.e., improve quality of relationships, improve self-esteem, etc.)
  • Provde group therapy as a helpful resource where you can find others who can help support you as you discuss the effects of alcoholism on your family.

Drinking Responsibly: Making Healthy Decisions

If you choose to drink, there are a variety of things that you can do to make sure you are drinking in a responsible manner.

  • Drink slowly, don’t gulp your drinks.
  • Avoid using alcohol with other drugs.
  • Set a limit on how many drinks you are going to have, and stick to it.
  • Avoid drinking on an empty stomach. High protein foods help slow alcohol absorption into the bloodstream.
  • Avoid putting your drink down out of sight or accepting drinks from strangers.
  • Be aware of any effects alcohol/drugs may have on prescription or over-the-counter drugs you are taking.
  • Plan ahead! Designate a sober driver in advance, provide transportation at social gatherings where drinking is involved, or use public transportation.

Drinking and sex. Be aware that:

  • Alcohol use and incidents of sexual assault are highly correlated, so drink safer; be aware of whom you are with, go out with a group of people who you trust, and leave together.
  • Vomiting as a result of alcohol consumption can disrupt the effectiveness of birth control pills, so watch how much alcohol you consume and be aware of the potential effects of substance use.
  • Alcohol can decrease inhibition but that is no excuse not to practice safer sex. Be aware of your responsibility to yourself and your partner by practicing safer safe.