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Alcohol and Substance Abuse

Tips About Alcohol & Substance Use:

 Social-Drinking Versus Problem-Drinking

(Adapted from "How to Help a Friend With a Drinking Problem"   by The American College Health Association)

In general, a person who is considered a moderate drinker does not drink every day and does not drink more than one drink per hour. A high-risk drinker is a person who drinks five or more alcoholic beverages (four or more if female) in one sitting.

Below is a general listing of drinking habits of social and problem drinkers and alcoholics.  It is not necessary for a person to have every habit to fit into a category, and some students may have some habits that are not listed. However, this list can give you an idea of whether or not a student has a problem and how severe it is.

A social drinker typically

  • Drinks slowly (no fast gulping)                                
  • Never drives after drinking
  • Respects non-drinkers
  • Knows and obeys laws related to drinking
  • Knows when to stop drinking (does not drink to get drunk)
  • Eats before or while drinking

A problem drinker typically:

  • Drinks to get drunk
  • Tries to solve problems by drinking
  • Experiences personality changes, e.g., may become loud, angry, and/or violent, or silent, remote, and/or reclusive
  • Drinks when he or she should not, e.g., before driving or going to class or work
  • Causes other problems  —  harms self, family, friends, and strangers

An Alcoholic:

  • Spends lots of time thinking about drinking and planning where and when to get the next drink                     
  • Keeps bottles hidden for quick pick-me ups
  • Starts drinking without conscious planning and loses awareness of the amount consumed
  • Denies drinking
  • Drinks alone
  • Needs to drink before facing a stressful situation
  • May have "blackouts" — cannot remember what s/he did while drinking although s/he may have appeared "normal" to people at the time
  • Goes from having hangovers to more dangerous withdrawal symptoms, such as delirium tremens ("DT's"), which can be fatal

Indicators of Trouble With Drugs and/or Alcohol

(Adapted from “How to Help a Friend With a Drinking Problem” by The American College Health Association)

The following is a list of indicators that will help to alert you to possible substance abuse problems. There is no magic number or combination of indicators which definitively prove that a person has a substance misuse or abuse problem. However, the existence of several indicators may indicate a pattern of behavior that may need to be investigated further. In such instances you may wish to consult with an individual who has professional experience in dealing with substance misuse/abuse problems Please keep in mind that the college years are a time when students undergo a number of changes in behavior and attitudes as they adjust to the college environment. Some of these changes may resemble indicators of a problem with alcohol or other drugs.

Physical Indicators:

  • Observed abnormalities of skin, eyes, coordination, and speech
  • Pattern of frequent illnesses
  • Digestive disturbances
  • Evidence of withdrawal
  • Decreased concern about grooming and appearance
  • Passing out

Emotional Indicators:

  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs to deal with emotions
  • Guilt about actions during intoxication
  • Reduced emotional control
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Guilt about use of alcohol, tobacco, and/or other drugs
  • Anxious reactions
  • Self-abusive behavior
  • Depression

Cognitive Indicators:

  • Decreased attention and concentration spans/Inability to focus on a task
  • Increased forgetfulness
  • Decreased problem-solving skills
  • Blackouts (total memory loss for a period of time)

Social Indicators:

  • Family and other relationship difficulties
  • Financial problems
  • Legal problems
  • Friends who are regular users of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs
  • Decreased leisure time activities and interests
  • Poor work record/performance
  • Fighting and/or physical aggression
  • Personality change
  • Offensive behavior or interference with the rights of others

Specific Behaviors

  • Ignoring or excusing behavior associated with alcohol or other drug use problems, e.g., traffic accidents, physical injuries
  • Acting irresponsibly, e.g., staying out late, not showing up for work, handing in assignments late
  • Maintaining that there is no problem and highlighting other possible causes for observed indicators of a problem
  • Acknowledging that there might be a problem, but that it is no big deal
  • Lowered academic performance
  • Poor judgment and decisions

Classroom and Out-of-Classroom Warning Signs of Subtance Misuse/Abuse Problems Warning Signs:

  • Cutting classes/dropping a class/coming to class late
  • Frequently arrives late for work
  • Makes up excuses for poor performance and/or missing classes
  • Frequently requests extentions/frequently turns in work late or not at all
  • Dramatic decline in academic performance
  • Coming to class in shifts of moods or emotions
  • Exhibits an attitude of not caring (extreme boredom or negativism)
  • Brags about their alcohol or other drug use; conversations are frquently about using
  • Loses friends because of drinking or using other drugs
  • Loss of motivation or energy
  • Experiences frequent health problems (e.g., illness, injury)
  • Spends most of his or her money on drugs or alcohol
  • Frequently passes out or suffers blackouts while drinking
  • Changes in his or her appearance
  • Frequent problems with law enforcement or University authorities (e.g., Public Safety, residence hall staff)