Published: March 6, 2019

Students may choose to experiment with alcohol and drugs for a variety of reasons, or in some cases, they may be affected by someone else’s decision to experiment. With this, there can be adverse outcomes that can affect a student’s academic success.

Approaching this topic and having a conversation with students can help when it comes to the choices they make and knowing when to get help. Health Promotion has provided information and tips for responding to student substance use. 

Students walking across a snowy campusSigns of substance use

Examples of concerning behaviors related to substance use include, but are not limited to:

  • Changes in academic performance, class attendance or quality of schoolwork
  • Appearing hungover, intoxicated or high in class
  • Appearing excessively sleepy or hyperactive or exhibiting mood swings
  • Lack of engagement
  • Smelling of alcohol or marijuana
  • Frequent injuries

How you can help

If you feel comfortable having a conversation with the student, find a time when you can talk in private. During the conversation, here are some things you can do to help and things to avoid:

  • Show care and concern for the student and base the conversation on concrete examples you have observed.
  • Talk to the student when they are free of distractions.
  • Don’t make assumptions. Treat the situation as serious and avoid passing judgement.
  • Avoid labeling or normalizing behavior.
  • Express concern, not judgment.
  • Remain calm, empathetic and understanding.
  • Explore how the downsides of substance use might be negatively affecting the student’s goals and values. 
  • Be supportive and encourage the student to seek on-campus resources.

Support resources

If you are concerned about a student and don’t feel comfortable approaching them or they are not open to having a conversation, contact Student Support and Case Management (SSCM). SSCM staff serve as the primary resource for managing student issues, providing intervention and crisis prevention.

Get more information about alcohol and other drugs and a list of classes and workshops.