How to Help: Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Signs and Symptoms of Potential Drug or Alcohol Abuse

  • Preloading before parties, using with the intent to get drunk or high
  • Lost time from school or work due to use
  • Use in order to cope with personal problems
  • Use to overcome shyness or boredom, to gain social acceptance
  • Loss of interest in family and friends related to use
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Difficulty with sleep related to use
  • Poor judgment, such as driving while using, riding with someone who is using, engaging in frequent sexual encounters while using
  • Using outside a social setting, using alone
  • Showing up under the influence of drugs/alcohol in inappropriate settings
  • Using to build self-confidence
  • Mood fluctuations, increased belligerence or arguing, increased depression including thoughts of suicide, connected to using
  • Developing health problems due to using
  • Memory blackouts during or after using, passing out
  • Usually drinking to the point of intoxication
  • Feeling guilty about using
  • Not fulfilling promises or obligations because of use
  • For alcohol, increased tolerance

How to Share Concerns with a Friend

  • Talk to your friend in private, when neither of you has been drinking or using drugs
  • Think before you meet about what to say. Be ready to describe behaviors of concern, what your fears are, and what resources are available.
  • Speak to your friend about the behaviors you have observed and your concern, without being judgmental
  • Listen to what your friend says without arguing. Avoid accusations and continue to refer to specific behaviors of concern. For instance, “I was really scared last night when you kept throwing up and then tried to drive home.”
  • Anticipate denial or minimization, and realize you will likely need to repeat this conversation several times.
  • Offer to help your friend connect with the Counseling Service, Health Service, or one of the off campus resources listed on this website.
  • Seek consultation about how best to help your friend. Speak to Residence Life staff (without sharing the friend’s name, if you wish), a counselor, a campus pastor, or the Health Service staff.

If Your Friend Is Drunk

Generally,

  • Don’t leave a drunk friend alone, even if they are conscious. Watch for signs of alcohol poisoning.
  • Don’t assume your friend will make it home safely. The full effect of the alcohol may not have hit yet. If the person has vomited, lost motor coordination, or is not coherent, seek medical attention.
  • Don’t assume an unconscious person is sleeping; they may be suffering from alcohol poisoning.
  • Food, drugs, water, exercise, or cold showers will not speed the body’s processing of alcohol.

Signs of concern that may indicate alcohol poisoning include:

  • Unconsciousness
  • Cold, clammy or pale or bluish skin
  • Uncontrollable vomiting
  • Slow, shallow, or irregular breathing
  • Not waking during or after vomiting
  • Fever or chills

Any of these symptoms indicates an emergency, and you must call 911 immediately. Make sure your friend is lying on his/her side to prevent choking on vomit, closely monitor his/her breathing, and find someone who can perform CPR if breathing stops.