Loyola University Maryland

Counseling Center

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is defined as a pattern of repeated drug or alcohol use that interferes with work, social relationships, or health. Substance abuse typically begins with recreational use in social settings. As time passes, an individual exhibits a higher tolerance toward the substance and will increase their use of the drug. They may also experience cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Signs of Substance Abuse

Behavioral Signs

  • Absence from work/school
  • Secretive or isolated about one’s activities
  • Missing important work/social engagements
  • Financial difficulties
  • Legal problems
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Relationship issues

Emotional Signs

  • Denial
  • Irritable or argumentative
  • Defensiveness
  • Difficulty coping with stress
  • Admitting superficially to the problem but not admitting to the seriousness of it
  • Dazed or confused
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Offering justifications or other explanations for behavior
  • Placing blame for the behavior on external factors (i.e. a person or an event)
  • Avoiding discussion of the topic

Physical Signs

  • Change in eating habits
  • Overly energetic or lack of energy
  • Weight loss
  • Dilated pupils or red eyes
  • Excessive sniffing and runny nose
  • Looking pale or malnourished


On Campus Resources

The primary substance abuse resource on campus is the Office of Student Support and Wellness Promotion (SSWP). SSWP encourages healthy living by offering support groups, individual counseling for drug and alcohol concerns, comprehensive support strategies, and ongoing follow-up.

Substance abuse occurs on a continuum from mild to severe. The Loyola University Counseling Center is able to provide assessment and short-term individual counseling for students whose symptoms are mild to moderate. Due to the complex nature and associated health risks related to substance abuse, comprehensive assessment and treatment recommendations are necessary to ensure that an individual is connected with the most helpful, ethical, and sound care for their needs. This may include connecting students with additional campus or local resources.

Consistent with our short-term model, the Counseling Center is unable to provide the full continuum of care to treat individuals struggling with a more significant substance abuse. Please note that the Counseling Center does not provide mandated counseling for on or off-campus alcohol/drug violations or drug testing.

Local Resources

  • Alcoholics Anonymous: free support groups for alcohol abuse based on the 12 Step Recovery Model
  • AL-ANON: free support groups for family/friends of an individual struggling with substance abuse based on the 12 Step Recovery Model
  • Narcotics Anonymous: free support groups for drug abuse based on the 12 Step Recovery Model
  • SMART Recovery: free support groups that support recovery from addiction
  • Maryland Addiction Recovery Center: assessment and treatment for substance abuse, including intensive outpatient and inpatient treatment
  • Kolmac: outpatient recovery treatment

Additional Resources

  • Adult Children of Alcoholics®/ Dysfunctional Families: support for adults raised by a parent struggling with or who has struggled with substance abuse
  • Sober Grid: Free app for Iphone and Android. Sober Grid is a mobile sober community and is a personalized resource for tracking and sharing progress with others, while giving and receiving support. It also offers 24/7 live peer coaching.
  • Nomo – Sobriety Clock: Free app for Iphone and Android. The app offers everything from an encouragement wall, to accountability partner searching, to mini-exercises to help you refocus on sobriety.
  • WEconnect: Free app for Iphone and Android. WEconnect helps users schedule routines to stay on track for recovery. The app provides reminders, rewards for completion of recovery activities, and GPS verification for routine locations to increase accountability.

Coping with the Substance Use of a Loved One

Set healthy boundaries. Addiction can be a challenging disease. The person with an addiction may try to push boundaries as a result of their dependence on substances. It may be necessary to take a step back and identify the boundaries you have, so that your life is not negatively impacted by the needs of a person using substances. Ultimately, you are not that person’s therapist and should not be responsible for their treatment.

Set realistic expectations. It is important to realize that if you return home for the holidays with a parent or loved one who has an addiction, they will not suddenly be free from their addiction without long-term therapeutic work. Setting realistic expectations will help you anticipate what behaviors you may need to cope with and aid you in creating appropriate boundaries.

Learn about addiction. Educate yourself by knowing what addiction is and what to expect when someone suffers with addiction. This will help you set healthy boundaries and realistic expectations. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers additional information about substance abuse and a free referral helpline.

Do not use substances with the person who has an addiction. This sends a message that you are tolerant of their use of substances, while also putting yourself at risk for developing an addiction.

Find a healthy support system. Connect with others through your classes, clubs, friends, or organizations. It can be healthy to surround yourself with people who do not struggle with an addiction so that you can have a healthy model of relationships.

Withstand the urge to rescue or please. You might feel the need to please or rescue a loved one from certain situations. Your loved one may even add guilt onto a request in order to have their needs met. While reflecting on your own boundaries, think about if what they are asking for is something you would allow to happen?

Practice self-care and utilize counseling. Supporting a loved one struggling with substance abuse can be demanding and may impact your own mental health. Talking to a counselor and practicing healthy habits will not change your experience overnight, but it is an important first step toward living a healthier life and processing the emotions that may come with supporting a loved one. Additionally, a counselor can help you reflect on your own boundaries and how you can communicate those to others.