Signs Your College Student is Struggling with Drug or Alcohol Use

She’s home for winter break. Here’s your chance to really connect face-to-face. Your college student is facing academic and social and emotional challenges that may seem daunting and those include exposure to alcohol and drugs. There’s no secret that ease of access to alcohol and a variety of drugs only increase at college. Partying is part of the passage.

You can expect to see some subtle or not so subtle changes in how you child looks and acts. It’s easy to dismiss or misread these signs as normal for college life; as just “a stage he’s going through.” But how do you know if those changes are something to be concerned about?  Here are a few questions to help you learn if things have gone beyond what’s to be expected.   The answers may tell you if your college student is struggling with drug or alcohol related problems:

  • Is he or she evasive or secretive when you ask about their classes and friends?
  • Are they lying about things of no consequence?
  • Is money missing from the accounts you fund?
  • Are possessions like laptops or phones missing without explanation?
  • Is he or she suffering from flu-like symptoms but without a temperature?
  • Are they sleeping too much or too little?
  • Are they eating too much or too little?
  • Do you see a lack of motivation or interest in activities?But if you can answer “yes” to two or more of these questions, it’s time for a difficult conversation with your child about their use of drugs and alcohol.

Let me say why these questions matter: Access to drugs has never been so easy. Chances are that many 20-somethings have already tried a variety of pills like Xanax and Percocet. Flu-like symptoms like sweating, muscle aches and diarrhea but without the temperature that accompanies the flu are signs of drug withdrawal. And if your college student exhibits signs these signs of withdrawal he or she is at the greatest risk for relapse and overdose. If you see these signs, take immediate action.  Get to your local pharmacy and purchase the overdose medication Narcan as a precaution.

If you suspect your son or daughter is in the grips of drug addiction, it’s time for a difficult conversation. Probe.  Ask questions.  Follow the money and follow the lies. Check their bank accounts. Was her laptop really stolen or could she have sold it for cash? And why is she telling so many meaningless lies? What’s she really not telling you?

Open the conversation by asking her about her behaviors. For example: “We see you’re out of money and you’re not being really honest about little things.  Are you O.K?”

No one want to think their child is battling something as life-changing as a drug or alcohol addiction, but ignoring the lies and behavior will not take that possibility away. This semester break is a good time to have those conversations and to begin the fight for your child’s life.  That fight begins with you as a parent.

The Next Right Thing offers free parent support groups beginning in January on Wednesday nights at 7:00 p.m. Anyone may attend to meet with other parents and discuss their concerns and doubts.   Contact us to register or get more information.

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