College can be a time of experimentation, risk-taking, and personal exploration. Using alcohol and other drugs can produce intoxication that alters judgment, perception, attention, or physical control and lead to consequences on one’s mental, physical or emotional well-being. Knowing how to spot a problem and say something can be valuable to someone in need.

What to look for

It can be difficult to know if substance use is impacting someone's success. They may need support if:

  • You worry about their substance use, and what they do or say while using.
  • You often take care of them because of drug or alcohol use.
  • They use substances to escape from or cope with problems, stress, and painful feelings.
  • They have received medical care for something related to drinking or drug use.
  • They have said they want to cut down on drinking or drug use.
  • Substance use is affecting their academic performance or relationships.
  • They engage in dangerous or illegal behaviors while using drugs or alcohol, or cannot remember the things they said or did while intoxicated.

How to help

Remember, someone does not need to be addicted to be in need of your support. If you have any concern, it is best to say something. If you decide to communicate with the person:

  • Have the conversation when everyone is clear-headed, alert, and sober, and there is enough time to discuss everything thoughtfully and completely.
  • Keep your comments focused on what you have personally seen and experienced; use concrete examples of recent events that have caused you concern.
  • Convey your concern for the person’s well-being and avoid placing blame.
  • Have resources ready to offer should in case the person decides they want to make a change. Remember that change is a choice and can take a while, and it is necessary to allow space for that.

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