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What is Substance Misuse?

Simply put, substance misuse is the repeated use of alcohol and/or other drugs accompanied by a failure to fulfill one's major responsibilities related to school, work, friends, family, or other roles, and/or repeated use in situations that are physically hazardous, and/or repeated legal problems. 

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Substance



If you notice unexplained changes in physical appearance or behavior of a friend or family member, it may be a sign of substance misuse. However, you may not know definitively until a professional does an assessment.

What are Some Physical Signs?

  • Change in sleeping patterns
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Slurred or Agitated speech
  • Sudden or dramatic weight loss or gain
  • Skin abrasions/bruises
  • Neglected appearance/poor hygiene
  • More frequent illness
  • Accidents or injuries

What are some behavioral signs?

  • Hiding use; lying and covering up
  • Sense that the person will "do anything" to use again, regardless of the consequences
  • Drug-seeking behavior
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Emotional instability
  • Hyperactive or hyper-aggressive
  • Depression
  • Missing school or work and/or failure to fulfill responsibilities at school or work
  • Complaints from teachers or co-workers
  • Reports of intoxication at school or work
  • Furtive or secretive behavior
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Locked doors
  • Going out every night
  • Change in friends or peer group
  • Change in clothing or appearance
  • Unusual smells on clothing or breathe
  • Heavy use of over-the-counter preparations to reduce eye reddening, nasal irritation, or bad breath
  • Hidden stashes of alcohol
  • Stealing money, valuables, drugs, or alcohol from family members or friends

Assessment of Substance



Because of excessive alcohol and/or drug use by college students can become somewhat "normalized," it is often difficult for students to determine if their own substance use is problematic. If you thinking you make have a problem with alcohol and/or drugs, feel free to compete this Self-Screening Assessment. If you would like to schedule a confidential assessment, please call Lisa Arnold, Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor, at 203-254-4000 ext. 2146. 

Recommended Treatment

Harm Reduction

The pragmatic approach focuses on psycho-educational strategies to help students define and limit their substance misuse. Students learn skills that help them avoid over-use and potential overdose.


The abstinence-based approach sets as a goal complete abstinence from all addictive substances, including alcohol, illegal drugs, and prescription medications. 

Intensive Outpatient or Inpatient Treatment

Sometimes a student's level of dependence on a particular substance requires a higher level of care than can be provided in a university setting. When this occurs, appropriate referrals to intensive outpatient and inpatient facilities are made.