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Responding to Students' Alcohol and Drug Abuse

How to Approach a Student about a Potential Alcohol/Substance Abuse Problem (in a non-emergency situation)

  • DO NOT bring up the subject when the person is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
  • DO NOT lecture or badger the student.
  • DO NOT try to speculate or explore motives. It can sidetrack you from the main point.
  • DO NOT expect a dramatic shift in thinking or behavior right away; this conversation may be the first time the person has thought about this problem.
  • DO identify a location and time where you can talk in private without embarrassment or interruptions (typically your faculty office).
  • DO express your concern to the student, citing the risk factors you have observed.
  • DO list specific problems that have occurred because of this person’s drinking or drug use. Include specific times, places and behaviors.
  • DO contact Counseling and Psychological Services (information above)
  • DO be supportive and follow up with the student while he or she is getting professional assistance.

Because this may not be an isolated incident, and because a fuller picture of a student emerges when various administrators are alerted and can then pool their information, it is important that you also share the information with one or more of the following:

  • Your department chair
  • Appropriate class dean
  • Counseling Center
  • Department of Public Safety
  • Dean of students at each campus