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Substance Abuse

Like other campuses across the nation, BYU struggles with the issue of alcohol and other drug use among students.

Some students report using alcohol, marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, and other hallucinogens. In recent years, there has been an increase among college students in the illegal recreational use of prescription drugs such as Vicodin, and the illegal use of prescription stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall as performance enhancing “study drugs.”

While some students decrease alcohol and/or drug use after their first two to three years in college, others continue to binge drink or use drugs and eventually develop a substance abuse disorder.

The following features of problematic drinking or substance abuse might be evidenced at the university level:

  • a failure to fulfill major obligations at school and/or work such as absences, tardiness, incomplete assignments, performing below potential
  • substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous such as driving under the influence or walking along the cliffs while intoxicated
  • substance-related legal problems such as fighting while under the influence, damaging property, date or acquaintance rape, sexual harassment
  • continued substance use despite recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused by the substance such as losing friends, significant others, and family members
  • continued use despite repeated harmful consequences such as being placed on academic probation, losing a part time job, being arrested, or having an accident.

When you become aware of a student with problematic drinking or a substance use problem:


  1. Treat the situation as serious, but withhold judgment and try to remain objective.
  2. Be aware that problematic use of substance is not based on a logical process, so lecturing is not effective.
  3. Hold the person responsible for his/her behaviors and assignments.
  4. Be aware that denial is very powerful and includes conscious lying, unconscious lying, distortions and, at times, delusions.
  5. Be aware that for a student who is addicted to a substance, cravings or hunger for the substance may be increased by stress.
  6. Be aware that the more a student is exposed to treatment opportunities, the better chance there is that he or she will be motivated to change behavior.
  7. Refer the student to Counseling and Psychological Services to start treatment or to obtain a referral to treatment centers in Utah County.


  1. Make light of drug and drinking stories or joke about them.
  2. Tell your personal stories of party days while in college.
  3. Engage in drug use or drinking with the students.
  4. Assume college drug and alcohol experimentation is harmless. Each year, college students across the country are seen in local hospital emergency rooms for overdose and alcohol/drug-related problems.