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Responding to Students' Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Signs of a Possible Substance-Abuse Problem

These are some common warning signs that a student may have or be at risk for developing an alcohol or other drug problem:

  • Changes in their appearance
  • Loss of motivation or energy
  • Changes in personality; shifts in moods or emotions
  • Frequently arrives late or cuts classes
  • Comes to class exhausted, with a hangover or impaired
  • Experiences frequent health problems (illness, injury)
  • Frequently requests extensions, turns in work late or not at all
  • Dramatic decline in academic performance
  • Makes excuses for poor performance or missing classes
  • Brags about their substance use or conversations are frequently about alcohol or drug use
  • Admits to frequently passing out or suffers blackouts while drinking
  • Frequent problems with law enforcement or University authorities

Please note that many of these behavioral descriptions refer to general emotional distress, too. Students often “self-medicate” unpleasant emotions by using substances including alcohol; and chronic substance abuse can lead to emotional difficulties.