Concerned About Your Use?

When evaluating your own drinking habits, it can be helpful to review these definitions:

  • High Risk Alcohol Use: Is typically defined as drinking that brings a person’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) to 0.08 or above, which typically equates to 5 or more drinks for males or 4 or more for females in about 2 hours. 1 This can also equate to four  drinks per day or 14 in a week for males and more than three drinks a day or seven per week for females. High risk drinking can threaten a person’s health and well-being as it increases the risks of being injured, experiencing  property damage, engaging in high-risk or potentially harmful activities (like driving while intoxicated), experiencing a black-out or passing out from alcohol intoxication/ poisoning. Experiencing such harms may affect a person’s ability to engage in academic, employment, social activities and responsibilities.


  • Alcohol Use Disorder: Can be mild, moderate or severe.  It is a pattern of use that is harmful to a person’s health, well bring, relationships, mental health, academic and employment performance, and can include financial and legal implications.


  • Substance Use Dependency: Is a chronic brain disease. Also known as an addiction, a Substance Use Dependence rewires  areas of the brain that are responsible for reward, motivation, learning, judgement and memory. It is a complex disease, much like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease that is caused by the combination of behavioral, psychological, environmental and biological factors,  


  • Alcoholism: Alcoholics have the disease of alcoholism; which can be defined by the interaction of biological, psychological, and social factors. 

  1. Biological: Genetic differences that can predispose someone to developing a substance use disorder. alcohol abuse. Sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters of alcoholics are more likely to become alcohol abusers themselves.
  2. Psychological: Personality and psychological traits that predispose someone to alcohol abuse, including self-medicating unpleasant feelings and depression.
  3. Enviromental:  Environmental factors supporting alcohol abuse - things like job stress, insufficient employment and/or financial resources, relationship problems, and peer pressure to drink.


Signs & Symptoms


  • Not being able to moderate or limit the amount of alcohol you drink
  • Setting parameters or limits for how much you are going to drink and not being able to follow them
  • Wanting to cut down on how much you drink or not being successful at reducing how much you drink
  • Spending a lot of time securing alcohol, drinking, or recovering from alcohol use
  • Feeling a strong craving or urge to drink alcohol
  • Failing to fulfill major obligations at work, school or home due to repeated alcohol use
  • Continuing to drink alcohol even though you know it's causing physical, social or interpersonal problems
  • Giving up or reducing social and work activities and hobbies to drink or because of drinking
  • Using alcohol in situations where it's not safe, such as when driving or swimming
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol so you need to drink more to feel its effect or you do not experience the same affects when drinking the same amount
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms — such as nausea, sweating and shaking — when you don't drink, or drinking to avoid these symptoms



1 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [NIAAA}; 2020.

2 Mayo Clinic

3  CASAColumbia. (2012) Addiction medicine: Closing the gap between science and practice.

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Help a Friend with a Drinking Problem

If you think a friend has an alcohol problem, here are some tips on how you can help. Know you do not have to figure this out on your own! We have great supports and resources ready and available for you. Feel free to contact Cara Ludlow, Dawn Kepler or MSU CAPS for support. If you want to talk to your friend about your concerns, here are some great tips:

Talk to your Friend

Choose a quiet, private environment to talk to your friend. Avoid initiating the discussion when you are angry or upset. Also, be sure that your friend is sober. Use I-statements to convey your feelings and concerns such as ““I am worried about you” Or “I am concerned about how much you drink”. Keep the discussion focused on your observations; what you have seen or events that have happened. Remember to not judge or criticize, just listen. If you find yourself getting angry, tactfully end the conversation and initiate it another time when you are calmer. Periodic and brief conversations may work best.

Prepare for Defensiveness

Your friend may deny that there is a problem or may become defensive. Don’t take this personally; it’s often difficult to come to terms with substance use problems. Be persistent. It may take several attempts on your part before your friend is ready to talk about alcohol use. If you meet resistance and/or your relationship is beginning to suffer as a result of the friends drinking, share how that drinking is affecting you. For example, “I really like spending time with you when you are sober, when you are drinking though, I don’t enjoy it as much. I never know what is going to happen to you, or what you’ll end up doing or saying.”

Present Options

Even if your friend is not able to acknowledge that there is a problem, it is important to give your friend options. Provide a list of on- and off-campus local resources for your friend with an alcohol problem. Offer reassurance that you will assist the friend in getting them the support they need when they are ready.

Setting Limits

Friends with substance use issues can be difficult to be around and may even place you at risk of harm. Minimally, those friends can complicate your life and ruin more than a few evenings out. Minimize that effect by placing limits on when and how you spend time with your friend. Set limits you know you can stick to and then stick to them. Even if a friend is not ready to currently do anything about drinking, setting limits and sticking to them will help protect you and preserve the friendship, until they are ready to seek help.

Sources: Grand Valley State University, Columbia University, UCLA

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Collegiate Recovery Community

Spartans' Organization for All Recovery (SOAR) is MSU’s registered student organization for Spartans in recovery from addictive disorders and their allies.

It is the heart and soul of the Collegiate Recovery Community and offers:

  • Support
  • Social Events
  • Community Service Opportunities

Join Us! SOAR meets weekly to plan events, socialize and support each other in recovery. We welcome the involvement of students or potential students in or contemplating recovery and their allies.

For more information contact:
Like us on Facebook!
Follow us on Twitter @SOARMSU
Follow us on Instragram @MSU_SOAR

For more information contact:
Cara Ludlow
AOD Program Coordinator

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