Substance Abuse

 

Substance abuse, although less common at Missouri S&T than at many colleges, presents problems on this campus. The emphasis here is on alcohol use and abuse (there is a difference!). However, if you or a friend are having problems with a drug other than alcohol, please seek assistance right away. If your life is not yet badly out of control, this is a good time to put it in better shape before that happens. And if it is out of control, putting off action is probably not going to make things better. These principles are equally applicable, of course, if your drug is alcohol. And what about alcohol?

Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug in the United States and perhaps not coincidentally, it is also the most socially acceptable to use. Most people use alcohol with little difficulty, although a significant minority (10-20%) of drinkers experience fairly serious problems managing their use. And most people who drink experience at least some difficulty with overuse at some point in their lives. Among college educated people, the most frequent time for this to happen is while they are attending college--some of the "out-of-class learning experience." Before going further it may help to clarify some possible misconceptions about alcohol use.

Alcohol use, like most human behaviors, exists on a continuum from no use to extremely heavy usage (daily consumption of dangerous amounts of alcohol with addiction present). The potential negative consequences of alcohol use also exist on a continuum that, perhaps not surprisingly, fits quite well with the amount of use continuum. Incidentally, if the picture toward the right side of the continuum looks kind of bleak, that's because it is!

Alcohol Use-Negative Consequences of Use Continuum

0 = No Use
1 = Some Social Drinking
2 = Regular Use
3 = Frequent heavy Use
4 = Addiction

No Use

  • No drinking related problems

Some social drinking

  • Occasional hangovers
  • Embarrassing behavior

Regular use of alcohol

  • More frequent hangovers
  • Agressive feelings
  • Possible Fights
  • More arguments
  • Danger of addiction

Frequent and/or heavy use

  • 5 or more drinks, three times a week
  • Hangovers
  • Possible sickness
  • Need more to "feel it" (tolerance)
  • Conflicts with others
  • Possibilities of blackouts
  • Likelihood of addiction
  • Denial begins to develop

Addiction

  • Drinking is part of daily functioning

As alcohol use increases toward the frequent heavy use range of the continuum, problems managing one's life become unavoidable--alcohol becomes more important than our responsibilities, our activities, our friends (unless they're "drinking buddies"), and our families. Problems toward the left side of the continuum are much less frequent and much more manageable. By the way, frequent heavy use is defined as five or more drinks at least three times a week; addiction may occur with very heavy use (8-10 or more, drinks per drinking occasion) only once or twice a week (the binge drinker). If you fear that you are creeping
too far to the right on the continuum, or one of your friends is, seek help or talk to your friend about what you see happening. Consulting with a counselor in either case is a real good idea; some valuable information and support become available once you take that step. And if you vehemently deny, or your friend denies, that substance use is a problem, that often indicates
that it is a problem. To get one's life back under control requires using less (or not at all); if you can't do it on your own, seek help.