Ask the Experts
These answers are provided by SMU Counseling Services, the Office of the Dean of Student Life, and the
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
- What are some student substance use risk
- What is considered high risk and low risk
- How do I get help if I have a problem
with prescription drugs?
- How can students minimize the risks
associated with alcohol and other drugs?
- What does the SMU Student Code of Conduct
say about alcohol and drugs?
- Will SMU notify parents if their student
gets “into trouble”?
- What if a student violates the SMU Code of
Conduct by using or possessing alcohol and/or drugs?
- How do you know when you are an alcoholic?
- What is moderate drinking?
- What is heavy drinking?
- What is alcoholism?
- What is alcohol abuse?
- How do I know if I have a drinking
- Do drugs and alcohol affect a student’s
- What are some of the effects of marijuana?
- How can you tell if someone has a problem with
using drugs? How can you tell someone they need help?
What are some student substance use risk factors?
- Family history of alcohol/drug dependency
- An initial high tolerance: minimal effects are felt at the onset
of alcohol use
- An acquired high tolerance: due to repeated exposure, more
alcohol is needed to achieve the same effect
High risk drinking behaviors: drinking to get drunk, any drinking
that causes tolerance to increase, drinking games and contests,
doing shots of alcohol
Heavy episodic drinking
- Use of drugs that are illegal or not prescribed to the student.
What is considered high risk and low risk behavior?
Low-risk drinking is:
- Thinking about whether you will drink before the party
- Being 21 or older
- Eating a meal before drinking
- Drinking no more than one drink per hour; no more than 3
drinks per day
- Always knowing what you are drinking
- Alternating alcohol-free drinks throughout the evening
- Knowing how you will get home safely before you go out
- Abstaining is the lowest risk choice
- Chugging, drinking games, shots (drinking anything out of a
punch bowl, trough, hose or funnel)
- Drinking to get drunk (intoxicated)
- Driving after drinking or riding with someone under the
- Drinking if you are younger than 21
- Drinking too much or too fast on an empty stomach
- Going to parties where people drink too much
- Not knowing what is in your glass or leaving it unattended
- Mixing alcohol with any medications or illegal drugs
How do I get help if I have a problem with prescription drugs?
If you or someone you know is abusing or misusing prescription
drugs, you are urged to contact SMU Counseling Services at 214-768-2277.
Assessments, interventions, referrals and short-term counseling, as
well as ongoing support for recovering students, are available at
Find out more.
How can students minimize the risks associated with alcohol and
Substance use presents obvious immediate health risks such as
alcohol poisoning and death from overdose. Less obvious health risks
from substance use include:
- A decrease in the ability to make safe and healthy decisions
- The increase in violence associated with alcohol and other
- The increased likelihood of sexual assault
What does the SMU Student Code of Conduct say about alcohol and
The University enforces state law and prohibits the possession
and consumption of alcohol by those younger than 21, as well as the
use, sale, possession or manufacturing of any controlled substance.
A complete copy of the SMU
Student Handbook can be found at
SMU Student Life.
Find information about the University alcohol and drug use
students living in on-campus housing here.
Will SMU notify parents if their student gets “into trouble”?
SMU looks to parents as partners in this fight against the
increasing use and abuse of alcohol and other drugs. Except in
unusual circumstances, parents are informed by the Office of Student
Conduct & Community Standards of issues involving their students
Please make sure your student maintains current contact
information on file with the Registrar’s Office and in
- If a student is found responsible for a violation of the alcohol or drug
- In emergency situations, such as a student hospitalization for a serious
health matter, the Office of the Dean of Student Life may call the parents.
What if a student violates the SMU Code of Conduct by using or
possessing alcohol and/or drugs?
Office of Student Conduct & Community Standards is made aware
of a potential violation of the Student Code of Conduct, whether on
or off campus, the office will contact the student and schedule a
hearing with a conduct officer. During the hearing, the student will
have the opportunity to discuss the alleged violation.
If it is determined that the student is responsible for the
violation, the appropriate sanctions will be assigned. Sanctions for
alcohol or drug violations may include but are not limited to:
parent notification, a fine, a referral to substance abuse
counselors in SMU Counseling Services, educational sanctions and a status
sanction that may or may not affect the student’s standing with the
University. We are available to answer questions at 214-768-4563.
SPECIAL NOTE: SMU enforces the state law which prohibits the
possession and consumption of alcohol by those students under the age of 21
and the misuse of alcohol for those students over the age of 21. SMU also
requires compliance with all local, state and federal laws regarding
controlled substances to include, but not limited to, their use, sale,
possession or manufacture.
Additional Legal Ramifications
In addition to violating the Student Code of Conduct, a
student’s behavior may also be a violation of the law. In these
cases, action by law enforcement authorities may also occur.
Thus, students may be adjudicated through the Office of Student
Conduct & Community Standards as well as through the court
Alcohol: Minors convicted in the criminal court system
of possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages may be
subject to fines, suspension of driver's license, community
service and a mandatory alcohol education class. Convictions for
providing alcohol to minors may subject individuals to fines and
a jail term of up to one year. Convictions for driving while
intoxicated may subject individuals to fines totaling as much as
$2,000 and a jail term of up to six months for a first offense.
Fines and jail terms escalate after the first conviction.
Controlled Substance (Drugs): Sanctions upon
conviction in the criminal court system for possession,
distribution or manufacture of controlled substances range from
fines to probation to imprisonment. Amount of fines, terms of
probation, or years of imprisonment generally are contingent
upon the circumstances and amounts of drugs in possession, sale,
distribution or manufacture.
Fictitious License or Certificate: Students under the
age of 21 may not posses documentation which represents them as
being 21 years of age or older. Texas law states, “A person
under the age of 21 years commits an offense if the person
possesses, with the intent to represent that the person is 21
years of age or older, a document that is deceptively similar to
a driver’s license or a personal identification certificate
unless the document displays the statement ‘NOT A GOVERNMENT
DOCUMENT’ diagonally printed clearly and indelibly on both the
front and back of the document in solid red capital letters at
least one-fourth inch in height.” This type of offense is a
Class C misdemeanor.
How do you know when you are an alcoholic?
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that reduces
anxiety, inhibition and feelings of guilt. It lowers alertness,
impairs perception, judgment and motor coordination. In high doses,
it can cause loss of consciousness and even death. Chronic
alcoholism damages the brain, liver, heart and other organs.
Spotting the signs and symptoms of alcoholism is not always easy.
While daily drinking, drinking-related arrests or job loss can be
signs of alcoholism, they tend to happen late in the disease. Many
signs occur earlier, yet are harder to detect. These signs include:
- An increasing tolerance to the effects of alcohol. You may
have heard the expression that someone can “hold their liquor.”
This is not seen as a sign that this person will not have
problems with alcohol. In fact, this may be an early sign of the
- A growing preoccupation or interest in drinking, drinking
alone or a drink before an activity with drinking. It may seem
as though one simply enjoys drinking. We now know that these
signs are the first symptoms of alcoholism.
- A person will dispute there is a problem. This symptom,
called denial, is almost always present in alcoholism.
- Hiding alcohol or sneaking drinks, gulping the first few
drinks, wanting to drink more, or longer, than the rest of the
crowd or losing control of drinking, leading to attempts to
control it ("going on the wagon.")
What is moderate drinking?
Based on current dietary guidelines, moderate drinking for women
is defined as an average of 1 drink or less per day. Moderate
drinking for men is defined as an average of 2 drinks or less per
What is heavy drinking?
Heavy drinking is consuming alcohol in excess of 1 drink per day
on average for women and greater than 2 drinks per day on average
for men (NIAAA).
What is alcoholism?
Alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic,
psychosocial and environmental factors influencing its development
and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal. It
is characterized by continuous or periodic: impaired control over
drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol use
despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most
notably denial (American Society of Addictive Medicine).
What is alcohol abuse?
Alcohol abuse is characterized by recurrent alcohol-related
problems, including problems with relationships, job performance, or
both; the use of alcohol in hazardous situations (e.g., while
driving a car); or some combination of these (DSM IV, 1994).
How do I know if I have a drinking problem?
Drinking is a problem if it causes trouble in your relationships,
in school, in social activities, or in how you think and feel. If
you are concerned that either you or someone in your family might
have a drinking problem, it is important that you consult a
professional counselor or physician. Questionnaires and other tools
can be useful to screen for drinking problems. Additional
information on screening for alcohol problems may be obtained from
the National Institute on Alcohol
Abuse and Alcoholism.
Do drugs and alcohol affect a student’s school performance?
In the United States, 159,000 of first-year college students will
drop out of school next year for alcohol or other related reasons.
Almost 1/3 of college students nationwide admit to having missed
class at least once because of alcohol or drug use. Some 30 percent
of college failure is alcohol related.
What are some of the effects of marijuana?
Marijuana affects the nerve cells in your brain where memory is
formed. There are 400 known chemicals in marijuana. It can limit
your body’s ability to fight off infections. Long-term marijuana use
can increase the risk of developing certain mental illness.
Marijuana takes away motivation, impairs judgment and can make you
A few effects of marijuana: slow thinking, slow reflexes, reduced
coordination and concentration, reduced motivation, mood swings,
memory impairment, panic attacks, delusions, paranoid thinking and
other mental health problems, risk of lung cancer and chronic
How can you tell if someone has a problem with using drugs? How can
you tell someone they need help?
When the other person’s behavior causes you problems or concerns,
it is time to do something. Explain your reasons for being concerned
(in a nonconfrontational manner) in relation to behaviors the person
exhibits. Focus on the friend’s negative behavior. Some behaviors of
- Missing class due to drinking or drug use
- Use of alcohol or drugs to help study or perform in school
- Reputation as a partier
- Guilt or remorse because of drinking or drug use
- Loss of memory due to use
- Change in friends since starting to use
- Use of alcohol or drugs to help function the day after
- Others or friends telling a person he or she uses too much
- Use of alcohol or drugs to build self confidence or decrease
- Drinking or using alone
- Negative experiences because of use
- Becoming a different person under the influence
- Lying about use, planning not to use but doing it anyway, or
drinking more than intended
SMU Counseling Services for more
information at 214-768-2277.