Concerned About Your Use?

Signs & Symptoms

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

  • Alcohol Abuse: Someone abusing a substance uses alcohol and/or other drugs in ways that threaten a persons' health and well-being, and compromises the ability to function in social, work, and family environments.

  • Alcohol Dependency: Someone dependent on alcohol and/or other drugs needs to take these drugs and needs to increase the dosage over time to maintain the effects of the drugs.

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

    Here are examples:

  1. Biological: Genetic differences that predispose someone to 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. Social: Environmental factors supporting alcohol abuse - things like job stress, insufficient employment and/or financial resources, relationship problems, and peer pressure to drink.

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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.

Educate Yourself

Do a little research. Look for information on the signs and symptoms associated with an alcohol problem and how it impacts relationships, school, health, work, career aspirations, etc. Feel free to contact the MSU Student Health Center or Counseling Center to help you start this process.

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 concerned about how much you drink” or “I am worried about you.” Keep the discussion focused on your observations. 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 abuse 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, but when you are drinking, 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 there is no admission 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 the help required when needed.

Setting Limits

Friends with alcohol problems 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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Traveler's Club

The Traveler’s Club 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

The Traveler’s Club meets weekly to plan events, socialize and support each other in recovery. To become a part of the club or for more information, contact the MSU Travelers Club.

For more information contact:
Cara Ludlow
AOD Program Coordinator

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