Live Responsibly

Ask the Experts

These answers are provided by SMU's Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, the Office of the Dean of Student Life, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Questions
  1. What are some student substance use risk factors?
  2. What is considered high risk and low risk behavior?
  3. How do I get help if I have a problem with prescription drugs?
  4. How can students minimize the risks associated with alcohol and other drugs?
  5. What does the SMU Student Code of Conduct say about alcohol and drugs?
  6. Will SMU notify parents if their student gets “into trouble”?
  7. What if a student violates the SMU Code of Conduct by using or possessing alcohol and/or drugs?
  8. How do you know when you are an alcoholic?
  9. What is moderate drinking?
  10. What is heavy drinking?
  11. What is alcoholism?
  12. What is alcohol abuse?
  13. How do I know if I have a drinking problem?
  14. Do drugs and alcohol affect a student’s school performance?
  15. What are some of the effects of marijuana?
  16. How can you tell if someone has a problem with using drugs? How can you tell someone they need help?

What are some student substance use risk factors?
  • Family history of alcohol/drug dependency
  • An initial high tolerance: minimal effects are felt at the onset of alcohol use
  • An acquired high tolerance: due to repeated exposure, more alcohol is needed to achieve the same effect
  • High risk drinking behaviors: drinking to get drunk, any drinking that causes tolerance to increase, drinking games and contests, doing shots of alcohol
  • Heavy episodic drinking
  • Use of drugs that are illegal or not prescribed to the student.
What is considered high risk and low risk behavior?

Low-risk drinking is:

  • Thinking about whether you will drink before the party
  • Being 21 or older
  • Eating a meal before drinking
  • Drinking no more than one drink per hour; no more than 3 drinks per day
  • Always knowing what you are drinking
  • Alternating alcohol-free drinks throughout the evening
  • Knowing how you will get home safely before you go out
  • Abstaining is the lowest risk choice

High-risk drinking

  • Chugging, drinking games, shots (drinking anything out of a punch bowl, trough, hose or funnel)
  • Drinking to get drunk (intoxicated)
  • Driving after drinking or riding with someone under the influence
  • Drinking if you are younger than 21
  • Drinking too much or too fast on an empty stomach
  • Going to parties where people drink too much
  • Not knowing what is in your glass or leaving it unattended
  • Mixing alcohol with any medications or illegal drugs
How do I get help if I have a problem with prescription drugs?

If you or someone you know is abusing or misusing prescription drugs, you are urged to contact SMU's Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention at 214-768-4021.  Assessments, interventions, referrals and short-term counseling, as well as ongoing support for recovering students, are available at the Center. Find out more.

How can students minimize the risks associated with alcohol and other drugs?

Substance use presents obvious immediate health risks such as alcohol poisoning and death from overdose. Less obvious health risks from substance use include:

  • A decrease in the ability to make safe and healthy decisions
  • The increase in violence associated with alcohol and other drugs
  • The increased likelihood of sexual assault
What does the SMU Student Code of Conduct say about alcohol and drugs?

The University enforces state law and prohibits the possession and consumption of alcohol by those younger than 21, as well as the use, sale, possession or manufacturing of any controlled substance. In addition, SMU prohibits the possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages in public places. A complete copy of the SMU Student Handbook can be found at SMU Student Life.

Find information about the University alcohol and drug use policies for students living in on-campus housing here.

Will SMU notify parents if their student gets “into trouble”?

SMU looks to parents as partners in this fight against the increasing use and abuse of alcohol and other drugs. Except in unusual circumstances, parents are informed by the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards of issues involving their students as follows:

  • If a student is found responsible for a violation of the alcohol or drug policies.
  • In emergency situations, such as a student hospitalization for a serious health matter, the Office of the Dean of Student Life may call the parents.
Please make sure your student maintains current contact information on file with the Registrar’s Office and in my.SMU.
What if a student violates the SMU Code of Conduct by using or possessing alcohol and/or drugs?

When the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards is made aware of a potential violation of the Student Code of Conduct, whether on or off campus, the office will contact the student and schedule a hearing with a conduct officer. During the hearing, the student will have the opportunity to discuss the alleged violation.

If it is determined that the student is responsible for the violation, the appropriate sanctions will be assigned. Sanctions for alcohol or drug violations may include but are not limited to: parent notification, a fine, a referral to the Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, educational sanctions and a status sanction that may or may not affect the student’s standing with the University. We are available to answer questions at 214-768-4563.

SPECIAL NOTE: SMU enforces the state law which prohibits the possession and consumption of alcohol by those students under the age of 21 and the misuse of alcohol for those students over the age of 21. SMU also requires compliance with all local, state and federal laws regarding controlled substances to include, but not limited to, their use, sale, possession or manufacture.

Additional Legal Ramifications

In addition to violating the Student Code of Conduct, a student’s behavior may also be a violation of the law. In these cases, action by law enforcement authorities may also occur. Thus, students may be adjudicated through the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards as well as through the court system.

Alcohol: Minors convicted in the criminal court system of possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages may be subject to fines, suspension of driver's license, community service and a mandatory alcohol education class. Convictions for providing alcohol to minors may subject individuals to fines and a jail term of up to one year. Convictions for driving while intoxicated may subject individuals to fines totaling as much as $2,000 and a jail term of up to six months for a first offense. Fines and jail terms escalate after the first conviction.

Controlled Substance (Drugs): Sanctions upon conviction in the criminal court system for possession, distribution or manufacture of controlled substances range from fines to probation to imprisonment. Amount of fines, terms of probation, or years of imprisonment generally are contingent upon the circumstances and amounts of drugs in possession, sale, distribution or manufacture.

Fictitious License or Certificate: Students under the age of 21 may not posses documentation which represents them as being 21 years of age or older. Texas law states, “A person under the age of 21 years commits an offense if the person possesses, with the intent to represent that the person is 21 years of age or older, a document that is deceptively similar to a driver’s license or a personal identification certificate unless the document displays the statement ‘NOT A GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT’ diagonally printed clearly and indelibly on both the front and back of the document in solid red capital letters at least one-fourth inch in height.” This type of offense is a Class C misdemeanor.

How do you know when you are an alcoholic?

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that reduces anxiety, inhibition and feelings of guilt. It lowers alertness, impairs perception, judgment and motor coordination. In high doses, it can cause loss of consciousness and even death. Chronic alcoholism damages the brain, liver, heart and other organs.

Spotting the signs and symptoms of alcoholism is not always easy. While daily drinking, drinking-related arrests or job loss can be signs of alcoholism, they tend to happen late in the disease. Many signs occur earlier, yet are harder to detect. These signs include:

  •  An increasing tolerance to the effects of alcohol. You may have heard the expression that someone can “hold their liquor.” This is not seen as a sign that this person will not have problems with alcohol. In fact, this may be an early sign of the disease.
  •  A growing preoccupation or interest in drinking, drinking alone or a drink before an activity with drinking. It may seem as though one simply enjoys drinking. We now know that these signs are the first symptoms of alcoholism.
  •  A person will dispute there is a problem. This symptom, called denial, is almost always present in alcoholism.
  •  Hiding alcohol or sneaking drinks, gulping the first few drinks, wanting to drink more, or longer, than the rest of the crowd or losing control of drinking, leading to attempts to control it ("going on the wagon.")
What is moderate drinking?

Based on current dietary guidelines, moderate drinking for women is defined as an average of 1 drink or less per day. Moderate drinking for men is defined as an average of 2 drinks or less per day (USDA).

What is heavy drinking?

Heavy drinking is consuming alcohol in excess of 1 drink per day on average for women and greater than 2 drinks per day on average for men (NIAAA).

What is alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by continuous or periodic: impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol use despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial (American Society of Addictive Medicine).

What is alcohol abuse?

Alcohol abuse is characterized by recurrent alcohol-related problems, including problems with relationships, job performance, or both; the use of alcohol in hazardous situations (e.g., while driving a car); or some combination of these (DSM IV, 1994).

How do I know if I have a drinking problem?

Drinking is a problem if it causes trouble in your relationships, in school, in social activities, or in how you think and feel. If you are concerned that either you or someone in your family might have a drinking problem, it is important that you consult a professional counselor or physician. Questionnaires and other tools can be useful to screen for drinking problems. Additional information on screening for alcohol problems may be obtained from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Do drugs and alcohol affect a student’s school performance?

In the United States, 159,000 of first-year college students will drop out of school next year for alcohol or other related reasons. Almost 1/3 of college students nationwide admit to having missed class at least once because of alcohol or drug use. Some 30 percent of college failure is alcohol related.

What are some of the effects of marijuana?

Marijuana affects the nerve cells in your brain where memory is formed. There are 400 known chemicals in marijuana. It can limit your body’s ability to fight off infections. Long-term marijuana use can increase the risk of developing certain mental illness. Marijuana takes away motivation, impairs judgment and can make you feel anxious.

A few effects of marijuana: slow thinking, slow reflexes, reduced coordination and concentration, reduced motivation, mood swings, memory impairment, panic attacks, delusions, paranoid thinking and other mental health problems, risk of lung cancer and chronic bronchitis.

How can you tell if someone has a problem with using drugs? How can you tell someone they need help?

When the other person’s behavior causes you problems or concerns, it is time to do something. Explain your reasons for being concerned (in a nonconfrontational manner) in relation to behaviors the person exhibits. Focus on the friend’s negative behavior. Some behaviors of concern are:

  • Missing class due to drinking or drug use
  • Use of alcohol or drugs to help study or perform in school
  • Reputation as a partier
  • Guilt or remorse because of drinking or drug use
  • Loss of memory due to use
  • Change in friends since starting to use
  • Use of alcohol or drugs to help function the day after partying
  • Others or friends telling a person he or she uses too much
  • Use of alcohol or drugs to build self confidence or decrease stress
  • Drinking or using alone
  • Negative experiences because of use
  • Becoming a different person under the influence
  • Lying about use, planning not to use but doing it anyway, or drinking more than intended

Contact the SMU Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Center for more information at 214-768-4021.

SMU News & Communications, 214-768-7650, smunews@smu.edu