The Student Under the Influence

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Alcohol is the most widely used psychoactive drug. It is common to find alcohol abusers in college populations also abusing other drugs, both prescription and illicit. Patterns of use are affected by fads and peer pressure. Currently, alcohol is the preferred drug on college campuses.

The effects of alcohol on the user are well known to most of us. Student alcohol abuse is most often identified, by faculty, when irresponsible, unpredictable behavior affects the learning situation (i.e., drunk and disorderly in class), or when a combination of the health and social impairments associated with alcohol/drug abuse sabotages student performance. Because of the denial that exists in most substance abusers, it is important to express your concern about the student not in terms of suspicions about alcohol and other drugs but in terms of specific changes in behavior or performance. If you are uncertain about how to approach a difficult situation, please call the GWU Counseling Center to consult.


  • Confront the student with their behavior that is of concern.
  • Address the substance abuse issue if the student is open and willing.
  • Offer support and concern for the student’s overall well-being.
  • Maintain contact with the student after a referral is made.
  • Consider informing your class at the beginning of the semester that students who appear to be intoxicated will be asked to leave. “This probably won’t ever come up, but if anyone even appears to be intoxicated in class…”


  • Convey judgment or criticism about the student’s substance abuse.
  • Make allowances for the student’s irresponsible behavior.
  • Ignore signs of intoxication in the classroom. The Prohibited Code of Behavior in the Student Handbook clearly outlines the student’s responsibilities.