Talking to your student about difficult things like alcohol and/or other drug use might seem overwhelming. But just by having the conversation you can be setting them up for a healthier relationship with substances. We encourage you to find a time with your student, with minimal distractions, and as we like to say, talk SHIFT.
Why is this important?
- Your relationship is important. You may find it hard to believe, but your students are listening. Knowing how you feel or think or talk about substance use informs their decisions.
- Students’ brains are still maturing until they are around 25. Our traditional-aged students (18-24) are still somewhat “wired” to seek out risk. Knowing facts and resources can help support students to make decisions that align with the bigger picture.
- Students are reporting higher rates of anxiety and depressions nationwide. Some students use substances to manage these feelings, which can lead to higher risk of misuse and dependency, while potentially increasing symptoms related to anxiety and depression.
Ready to ‘talk SHIFT?’ Here are some tips:
- Find a “good enough” place and time. Sometimes we feel like we have to wait for the perfect circumstances, which rarely come. We hear long car rides can be a great space for important discussions.
- Empower your student—give them meaningful information, but also acknowledge that they are making their own decisions.
- Whenever and wherever you have this discussion, try to approach it as non-judgmentally as possible. Foster open communication by asking open-ended questions. Here are some of our favorites:
- How do feel about the possibility of alcohol and/or drugs being at parties in college?
- Are you curious about party culture in college? How do you think you’ll react if you go to a party and there’s only alcohol to drink?
- What might you say if you’re offered a substance you don’t want to use?
- What might you do if you notice someone has drunk or used too much?
- How might you get involved and meet other students in college?
- Let them know there are many resources here on campus to learn how to stay safe.
- Check out these tips from University Health Services to stay safe if you choose to use.
- Learn how to help a friend with BeVocal.
- Follow @utbrucethebat for continued tips to stay safe and learn more about social norms as they relate to alcohol use.
- Go to our Longhorn Wellness Center, which is full of great resources for overall health and wellness interests, including substance use and safety.
- Browse University Health Services health topics for great resources.
- Try not to laugh or make light of substance misuse. Sharing old stories of party culture can inadvertently normalize this experience for students, contributing to the idea that this is what is expected of them and it’s no big deal.
- Talk about short and long-term goals, observing that substance misuse can sometimes get in the way of the long-term goals by causing some students to miss class, fall behind on school, work or even drop classes. See the resource list below if you’re interested in more support.
- Let them know you are here for them if they ever have questions or if they find that they might need more help or support. Student’s attitudes and behaviors can change throughout their time at UT, and we encourage you to check in with your student periodically. Keep those lines of communication open.
Are you concerned about your student’s use?
If you have noticed some changes in your students and you’re wondering if their substance use may be contributing, you’re not alone, and there are many resources to help you navigate options for support. Having a conversation with your student can be a meaningful place to start. Often substance misuse can overlap with mental health issues, so it’s good to have an open conversation to hear what might be going on for your student to identify the best way to find support.
Here are some things to look out for:
- Sudden grade drop
- Missing classes
- Isolation or social anxiety
- Appearing under the influence
- Physical changes like lost or gained weight, bags under eyes, hygiene difficulties
- Experiencing negative consequences
- Lack of interest in things that used to be important to them
If you feel like your student needs help, there are resources available for all UT students on campus:
The Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC)
- Short-term individual counseling
- Psychiatric services
- The Alcohol and Other Drugs Program
- Several group services
- CMHC Crisis Line (UT students only): 512-471-2255
- Web: https://cmhc.utexas.edu
The Center for Students in Recovery
- Weekly support meetings
- 12-step based meetings, SMART meetings and more
- Web: https://recovery.utexas.edu
Student Emergency Services
- Behavioral Concerns Advice Line (BCAL): 512-232-5050
- Web: https://deanofstudents.utexas.edu/emergency
Looking for more resources? These can be helpful places to start:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
- Their website offers a lot of information about mental health and substance use.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
- NIDA has information that is specific to teens and young adults.