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Alcohol Use/Abuse

Being in college can be one of the most exciting times of your life! Along with learning about engineering, business, or graphic design, you are also learning a great deal about yourself. Most traditional college students are transitioning into adulthood, which includes making choices about your major, developing new relationships, and drinking alcohol. This may also be true for non-traditional students who are coming to college for the first time, or returning after a long absence. How you choose to use alcohol can have a tremendous impact on your success during, and after, college. We want to encourage you to gather as much information about alcohol use as you can, in order to make your decision an informed one. In that regard, we are presenting some basic information about alcohol use here, as well as some links to off-campus web sites.

Why Do People Drink?

Students give many different reasons why they may drink. Some students say they drink because of peer pressure and to be part of a crowd. Some use alcohol to avoid difficult situations that may arise at school and work and with family and friends. Others use alcohol to avoid uncomfortable feelings, like anxiety or sadness. Anyone who drinks runs the risk of developing an alcohol problem. A serious problem can develop quickly, especially among college students.

How Do I Know If I Have A Drinking Problem?

Below is a set of questions designed to help you find out if alcohol use may be a problem:

  • Do you prefer to drink alone rather than with others?
  • Does your drinking cause problems with school (e.g., falling grades) or at work (e.g. being late)?
  • Do you drink to escape your problems?
  • When you drink, do you get very emotional?
  • Do you ever have memory loss or blackouts due to drinking?
  • When you drink, do you often get drunk even when you did not mean to drink to excess?
  • Do you find that you have to drink more and more to get the same effect?
  • Do you get into trouble with the law or injure yourself when you drink?

If you answered "yes" to one or more of these questions, you may have a drinking problem. If you have a drinking problem, or suspect that you have one, there are many others out there like you. As a matter of fact, more than 10 million people suffer from alcoholism.

What Effects Can Alcohol Have On Me?

Immediate physical effects from alcohol include: loss of muscle control, impaired reflexes, vomiting, and unconsciousness. Because alcohol goes directly into the bloodstream, overuse of alcohol can affect almost every system in the body. Long term use can cause cancer, brain damage, cirrhosis of the liver, weight gain, and birth defects if drinking while pregnant. Excessive drinking can also cause serious accidents, injuries, and death. For example, more than one out of every three motor vehicle fatalities involves alcohol and one out of every four drowning deaths are alcohol-related.

Alcohol can have psychological effects as well. It can affect your school work and family and social relationships. Studies have shown that students who drink alcohol to excess end up with poorer school grades and take longer time to complete their degrees. Because alcohol lowers inhibitions and impairs judgment, risky and violent behavior can result. For example, students impaired by alcohol often engage in vandalism and physical fights. Friendships and romantic relationships can also be jeopardized. Alcohol can lead people to say or do things they might regret, like making a bad decision about having sex with someone. Alcohol abuse can also lead to family conflicts and broken households.

One does not have to be using alcohol to be damaged by its effects. Children and partners of alcoholics can be seriously affected too. Family members and other loved ones often suffer from psychological symptoms, including low self-esteem, depression, health problems, and relationship problems, like difficulties getting close to others. They may also find themselves minimizing the severity of their loved one’s problem, feeling responsible for the problem, or feeling a lot of anger, shame, and resentment.

In addition, family and friends of alcoholics may display their own addictive behaviors. Being related to an alcoholic or living with an alcoholic puts one at greater risk for alcoholism and other addictions, including gambling and overeating. Finally, family and friends who are close to an alcoholic often take on their responsibilities, attempting to function for them in ways that are often unhealthy. This is commonly known as "codependency" and includes feelings of having lost control over one’s own emotions and behavior.

How Can I Get Help?

Help is available and easy to find!

There are many different types of treatments to help those whose lives are affected by alcohol. For severe alcohol addictions, there are detoxification programs that require the alcoholic to stay in a hospital or a treatment center. There are also programs that treat the problem at a clinic that the patient can attend daily. Once the physical addiction is addressed, follow-up treatment is always recommended.

Treatments for detoxified patients and those with less severe problems include individual, family, or couple’s therapy. Support groups are also available for sufferers of alcoholism and their family members or loved ones. If you are a student at Drexel University, you can contact the Office of Alcohol, Other Drug, and Health Education at (215) 895-6072 for information about alcohol treatment and abuse prevention. You can also schedule an appointment with a counselor at the Drexel University Counseling Center by calling (215) 895-1415. Other resources include:

Avoiding Alcohol Problems

  • Alcohol use and abuse is preventable.

  • Get educated. Know the facts. Once you do, you will realize that it is not worth endangering your career, your health, your relationships, and your future.

  • Avoid peer pressure. Think ahead about how to say "no."

  • Avoid situations where people will be drinking. Get involved in non-drinking activities.

  • Confront your problem if you have one.

  • Get help for the underlying problems of family, relationships, anxiety or depression.

  • Educate others.

Expressing Concern about Alcohol Abuse

  • Approach your friend out of concern for their well-being.

  • Do NOT try to talk with your friend if he or she is under the influence of a substance. Find the right time and place where there is privacy and all participants are clean and sober.

  • Being honest, direct, non-judgmental, and brief is the best overall approach to addressing concerns about alcohol use.

  • Clearly express to your friend that the reason for talking is due to your care and concern for him or her regarding their alcohol use, as well as their health, safety and success while at Drexel.

  • Your role is to simply help your friend “see what you see” regarding his/her use. Specifically describe the behaviors and consequences that you have witnessed and that are factual. Stick to observable, irrefutable facts. (Last Tuesday night you were drunk and missed your exam the next also vomited three times and didn’t remember any of it the next day).

  • Use “I” statements to describe how these behaviors have affected you and/or others. (“I am frustrated with the disruptions when you drink and get out of control,” or “I am worried that you may not last in school since you are missing so much class”).

  • Be very careful not to use labels and assumptions, such as “you have a problem” or “you drink too much”. Any judgmental words and/or “tones” will defeat your purpose and will likely be received with strong resistance and denial (they sound blaming).

  • Suggest appropriate actions for support and assistance that are available on campus. An appointment can be made in person or by phone (215-895-1415) at the Drexel University Counseling Center. Another option is to accompany the student to the Counseling Center, or to the Office of Alcohol, Other Drug, and Health Education. Your conversation may also serve as a beginning point for further contact about the issue, or even as a warning for additional action.

  • Expect some resistance, anger and denial when expressing concern about alcohol use. Do not take the anger personally. It is just a defense mechanism that the drinker is using to protect their way of life and/or the result of the person’s fear of change.

  • Anger and defensiveness does not mean that your appropriate expressions of concern are not being heard. If there is no immediate result, the cumulative effect of similar messages over time may eventually lead the person to seek help/make changes.

  • Above all, you are strongly encouraged to seek support, assistance and consultation from the Counseling Center when considering approaching a student due to concerns about substance abuse.

The content provided here is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended for self-diagnosis or self-treatment, nor should it replace the consultation of a trained medical or mental health professional. Please note that outside links are not under our control, and we cannot guarantee the content contained on them.