As UWM faculty and staff, you can support student success by helping to mitigate issues related to substance use within our campus community.
Substance use among college students impacts all aspects of University life, including the educational environment, student well-being, the quality of life on campus and in the surrounding communities, and institutional reputation. Moreover, research reveals that there is often a negative relationship between students’ GPAs and their use of alcohol and other drugs. Specifically, GPA decreases as the number of days on which a student uses alcohol increases; in one study, “A” students drank an average of 3.3 drinks per week, while “D” students drank an average of 9.0 drinks per week. Likewise, students who engage in illicit drug use have lower GPAs than students who do not use these substances. Reducing substance use on campus is essential to maintaining a healthy campus environment that fosters academic success.
- As an instructor, how can I support campus prevention efforts and encourage students to reflect upon their personal attitudes and beliefs regarding alcohol and other drug use?
- How can I incorporate information regarding alcohol and other drugs into my course curriculum?
- When and how should I approach a student with concerns regarding their use of alcohol or other drugs?
- What resources are available for UWM students who are experiencing issues related to alcohol or other drug use, and how can I help students connect with these services?
- Where can I send students to find information about substance-free social events on and around campus?
- How can I find out more information about assisting students with issues related to substance use or emotional distress?
As an instructor, how can I support campus prevention efforts and encourage students to reflect upon their personal attitudes and beliefs regarding alcohol and other drug use?
- Include a statement on your course syllabus which informs students that substance use may negatively impact their academic performance.
There is often a negative relationship between students’ GPAs and their use of alcohol and other drugs. Specifically, GPA decreases as the number of days on which a student uses alcohol increases; in one study, “A” students drank an average of 3.3 drinks per week, while “D” students drank an average of 9.0 drinks per week. Likewise, students who engage in illicit drug use have lower GPAs than students who do not use these substances. 30% of UWM students who drink have performed poorly on a test or an important project due to their drinking, and 43% have missed a class as a result of their substance use.
- Do not alter course schedules to avoid placing classes, tests, or assignment due dates on Fridays or following holidays and other occasions that typically prompt heavy consumption.
College students who have classes that meet on Friday mornings typically consume less alcohol on Thursday evenings. Strategically scheduling classes, exams, and assignment due dates on Fridays and following holidays or other junctures that typically prompt heavy consumption may discourage substance use on these occasions.
Avoid making comments that encourage or condone high-risk drinking or drug use. Challenge the perception that “everyone drinks heavily” or “everyone uses marijuana.”
Social Norms theories purport that many college students overestimate the degree to which other students utilize alcohol or other drugs and that these misperceptions influence behaviors. Communicating accurate campus norms may therefore reduce these high risk behaviors. Refer to Alcohol and Other Drug Use at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee: Findings From the 2011 University of Wisconsin-System Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Survey for current information regarding alcohol and other drug use among members of the UWM student community.
- Incorporate information regarding alcohol and other drugs into course curriculum. Make written assignments or initiate discussions that encourage honest self-reflection concerning student substance use.
Curriculum infusion techniques have been seen to increase students’ awareness of the related issues and available resources. These strategies have also resulted in reductions in students’ consumption rates and their experience of substance-related negative consequences.
- Be aware of signs and symptoms of substance abuse among your students, and maintain knowledge of campus resources.
Due to the frequency and nature of their interactions with students, UWM faculty and staff may be in a primary position to identify and intervene with students who are experiencing issues related to their personal substance use. College students who have a relationship with someone who prompts them to seek help are more likely to maintain positive attitudes and expectations regarding mental health care.
How can I incorporate information regarding alcohol and other drugs into my course curriculum?
Faculty and staff may play a role in reducing substance-related behaviors among their students by incorporating alcohol and drug prevention education into their course curriculum, as appropriate. Classroom-based strategies may reach a broader range of students than voluntary educational programs and may be particularly useful in reaching commuter students, whose main interaction with the University is often within the classroom setting. Moreover, students view professors as a credible source of health information and are known to best receive messages that are delivered by individuals who are perceived to be high in credibility. Curriculum infusion techniques have been seen to increase students’ awareness of the related issues and available resources. These strategies have also resulted in reductions in students’ consumption rates and their experience of substance-related negative consequences.
Curriculum Infusion is the process of integrating substance abuse prevention content into courses across the curriculum. This prevention content may comprise a specific two- to three- week unit of a course or may serve as a theme throughout the length of a course. The following tools are available to assist UWM instructors in designing substance abuse prevention content for their courses:
UWM AODA Coordinator Susan Cushman is available to provide consultation regarding curriculum infusion techniques, as well as guest lectures to classroom groups on topics related to alcohol, drugs, and the campus culture. Call 414-229-5836 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
When and how should I approach a student with concerns regarding their use of alcohol or other drugs?
Due to the frequency and nature of their interactions with students, UWM faculty and staff may be in a primary position to identify and intervene with students who are experiencing issues related to their personal substance use.
Some students may display behaviors that cause individuals close to them to become concerned about their substance use. These behaviors may include:
- Absenteeism and/or changes in work or academic performance
- Drinking before class or work
- Use of substances to cope with problems
- Social withdrawal and/or tendency to avoid events where substances will not be readily available
- Increased tolerance and difficulty cutting down or controlling level of use
- Feelings of guilt, shame, or sadness regarding one’s use of substances; feeling annoyed or attacked when asked about their drinking or drug use
- Continued use despite repeatedly experiencing problems as a result, such as fights or arguments with family or friends; interference with school, work, and other important responsibilities; or taking risks or getting seriously injured while under the influence
If you are worried about a student’s substance use,
- Find the right time and setting, so that you both have time to talk and are able to do so privately and without distractions
- Briefly describe your observations of their situation, and express your concerns directly and honestly.
- Listen carefully without interrupting. Reflect back what you are hearing without judgment or evaluation.
- Ask about their current support systems, and validate any work, thought, or effort that they have already put in to examining or addressing the problem.
- Offer to help them connect with available resources.
Further guidance regarding intervention strategies can be found in UWM’s Assisting the Emotionally Distressed Student guide.
What resources are available for UWM students who are experiencing issues related to alcohol or other drug use, and how can I help students connect with these services?
College students who have a relationship with someone who prompts them to seek help are more likely to maintain positive attitudes and expectations regarding mental health care. Research reveals that approximately 75% of those college students who sought psychological help did so at the recommendation of someone else.
UWM offers a variety of resources and services for students who wish to explore issues related to their use of alcohol or other drugs. These include:
- e-Check Up to Go:
This anonymous online alcohol assessment provides students with personalized feedback regarding their individual drinking patterns, experiences, and risk factors.
- Brief Alcohol and other drug Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS):
BASICS offers UWM students an opportunity to explore their use of alcohol or marijuana in a confidential and non-judgmental setting and to consider strategies to reduce harmful consumption and negative experiences related to use. In BASICS, students will:
- Reflect on their use and its relation to things like school, relationships, health, goals and values;
- Receive personalized feedback on individual risk factors;
- Compare their use to that of other students;
- Explore options for reducing harm and, if interested, make a plan for changes.
- Learn about additional resources for support on and off campus.
BASICS typically includes a small group discussion followed by an individual feedback session with a trained graduate student facilitator. Another option is to meet individually with the Campus Alcohol & Other Drug Coordinator for 1-3 sessions. BASICS is free for voluntary (non-mandated) students. BASICS does not provide a diagnosis of substance abuse or dependence.
- Evaluation and Treatment Services:
University Counseling, located in Northwest Quadrant, provides personal counseling, including confidential alcohol and other drug assessment, brief counseling, crisis counseling and referral assistance. Call 414-229-4716 to schedule an appointment. For more information visit https://uwm.edu/norris/counseling/.
- IMPACT, Inc.:
A community-based agency that provides alcohol and other drug abuse prevention, intervention, and assessment services. IMPACT, Inc. serves as a central access point for an array of social services in Milwaukee County.
Call 414-256-4808 or visit www.impactinc.org for more information.
Where can I send students to find information about substance-free social events on and around campus?
The following campus offices are available to assist UWM students in developing social networks and identifying substance-free social and/or service events:
How can I find out more information about assisting students with issues related to substance use or emotional distress?Norris Health Center offers the following training workshops for faculty and staff. For more information and to schedule a program, contact Lori Bokowy at email@example.com or 414-229-3001.
- Assisting the Emotionally Distressed Student
An overview of the scope and impact of mental health and substance use issues on campus. Learn how to recognize depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other signs of emotional distress. Acquire strategies and skills for approaching students with your concerns for their well-being and connecting them with available resources.
University Counseling Services is available to provide consultation to faculty and staff members looking to acquire strategies for reaching out to a student with concerns for his/her well-being. Call Norris Health Center at 414-229-4716, and ask to speak with the Crisis Counselor.
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