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Drug and alcohol misuse

Alcohol misuse

Alcohol misuse means drinking excessively – more than the lower-risk daily limits of alcohol consumption. Persistent alcohol misuse increases your risk of serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, liver disease, certain cancers and pancreatitis.

If someone loses control over their drinking and has an excessive desire to drink, it is known as dependent drinking (alcoholism).

Dependent drinking usually affects a person’s quality of life and relationships, but they may not always find it easy to see or accept this.

Drug misuse

People often take recreational drugs for the following reasons:

  • To have a pleasurable experience.
  • To improve their mood.
  • Giving in to peer pressure.
  • Because they are curious.

Recreational drugs include tobacco, nicotine, cannabis, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and some prescription drugs.

As well as causing serious health problems, long-term alcohol or drug misuse can lead to social problems, such as unemployment, divorce, domestic abuse and homelessness.

How they might feel

  • Low mood / depressed.
  • Anxious and worrying excessively.
  • Insomnia – difficulty sleeping or tired all the time.

Things you might observe

  • They are turning up to lectures intoxicated, smelling of alcohol, are regularly late, seem unkempt or are behaving differently.
  • They feel they should cut down on their drinking.
  • They suddenly lose or gain weight.
  • Their physical appearance or personal grooming deteriorates.
  • There are unusual smells on their breath or body.
  • Other people have been critical of their drinking.
  • They experience feelings of guilt about drinking.
  • They need a drink first thing in the morning to steady their nerves or to get rid of a hangover.
  • They appear fearful, anxious or paranoid.
  • They lack of motivation or seem ‘spaced out’.
  • They regularly exceed the lower-risk daily limit of alcohol.

If a student requires support but is not at immediate risk:

  • Discuss the student’s drinking or substance misuse in a supportive non-judgmental way.
  • Ask the student about triggers for their drinking – drinking excessively may be due to another mental health issues such as anxiety or depression or it may be due to pressure from peers and living up to the common expectations and stereotypes of students at university.
  • If you notice behaviour or symptoms which have given you concerns about a student’s alcohol consumption or suspected drug use, ask if you can speak to the student in a confidential space and explain to them what you have observed and what your concerns are. This may allow the student to open up.
  • If you smell alcohol on a student’s breath or any unusual smells on their clothing and you suspect they are intoxicated speak to them privately and ask them if they have been drinking or if they have taken any substances. Do this in a supportive way, being careful not to sound accusatory.
  • If you have reason to believe the student is intoxicated despite whether they admit this to you or not, confirm if they are in possession of a vehicle and whether they intend to drive. If necessary contact Campus Support for assistance on 01695 584227 (extension 4227).
  • Ask the student who they live with. They may have children at home or younger siblings, and their drinking or drug taking may be considered a safeguarding concern. Discuss any safeguarding concerns with the designated safeguarding officer in your Faculty as soon as possible.
  • If the student requires referral for specific issues, for example, they are struggling with money worries, have an accommodation issue or their issues are complex, then consider the routes in the ‘How to Refer’ section, seek the student’s consent to refer and explain that they can also self-refer to services.
  • Ask the student if they are registered with a GP. If they are not, the Wellbeing webpages have information on registering with a local GP. If they are, recommend that the student makes an appointment.
  • Make sure the student is aware of how to contact the Mental Health & Wellbeing Team and what they should do if at any point they feel they cannot keep themselves safe.

If you are unsure of how to support a student or concerned that a student might be at risk contact the Mental Health & Wellbeing Team on 01695 650988 (extension 7265) for advice.

  • Don’t be accusing when raising the issue – the student may not be willing to admit they have a problem.
  • Don’t try to solve the issue yourself – a student who is misusing alcohol or drugs requires specialist support. You should signpost them for more expert help.
  • Don’t promise confidentiality.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a student if they have drunk alcohol or taken drugs if you have significant reason to believe they have – for example if you can smell alcohol on them.
  • Don’t allow a student to leave your office or teaching room if you believe they are intoxicated and they intend to drive.

Refer a student if:

  • You feel you can no longer provide practical advice or support to the student.
  • You feel the student requires more specialist support.
  • You feel the student is at immediate risk to themselves or others.
  • A student may be intoxicated and behaving aggressively or may be in possession of a vehicle and you suspect they may be intending to drive.

If you believe the student is an imminent risk to themselves or others, ideally do not let them leave your office or teaching room. Contact the Catalyst Helpdesk on 01695 650800 (extension 7800) and ask them to put you through to the Duty Wellbeing Adviser in Student Services. If it is out of hours, contact Campus Support on extension 01695 584227(extension 4227).

If a student is an immediate risk to themselves, you do not need the consent of the student to contact Student Services.

If a student is not at immediate risk to themselves but requires specialist support, you must obtain their consent to refer them to any of the following services as appropriate:

Team NameSupport OfferedContact Details
Academic RegistryProvide advice on and processing of course changes: transferring course/university, repeating a year, module changes, changing mode of study,

01695 584803
Accommodation teamProvide advice/guidance about accommodation both on and off campus, including hall fee

01695 650800
Campus LifeEnsure that students live in a safe/secure environment on campus. Promote and organise events to help students make the most of their time here and administrate the Disciplinary

01695 657570
Campus SupportProvides 24/7 support and security on campus.01695 584227
CareersProvide advice and support with career planning, job hunting, CV writing, volunteering and maximising work

01695 650800
ChaplaincyProvides both staff and students of all faiths and none with pastoral support. Activities/events focus on friendship, community, support and

01695 650800
Counselling (assessed through the Wellbeing team)Referral always via the Wellbeing team. Also provide group workshops and 1:1 therapeutic support to help students find solutions to issues they are

01695 650988
Disability and InclusionProvide advice and support for students with physical/sensory/mental health, autism spectrum disorders or other additional needs. Also provide advice and guidance on reasonable adjustments and support available. Support for specific learning needs – including dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD can be found via the Library and Learning Services SpLD

01695 657568

01695 650800

Law clinicProvide a free clinic to all staff and students run by Year 3 law students who can advise on legal questions or difficulties such as support with housing contract and employment law for example.Law Clinic
Money AdviceProvide advice on all money-related matters including student funding, budgeting, and the Student Support

01695 650800
Students’ UnionProvides representation for students and promotes and hosts activities/events. Provides advice and support to students on various issues including academic, housing, and

01695 657327
Student Support TeamTargeted support for Care Experienced and Estranged Students (CEES). Advice and support for all students who are thinking of leaving or at risk of withdrawing or being withdrawn.

01695 650800
Wellbeing teamFirst contact for mental health concerns. Practical advice, support and signposting for any issue impacting on a student’s

01695 650988

Students can self-refer to all of the above services and arrange appointments via the Catalyst Helpdesk.

Useful links and information

For more information about alcohol and drug misuse, follow the links below.

Support and self-help resources for students

There are a range of self-help resources available for students including self-help apps, NHS screening tools and wellbeing activities students can do. Please see below for more information.

Register today for free

Mental health support.
24/7. Confidential.
Online Community.

For more details please refer to our T&C during registration


Togetherall (formerly Big White Wall) – 24/7 mental health support for students

Staff training at EHU

The Mental Health Awareness Workshop is a new workshop designed to support staff to support students with their mental health. The workshop is a practical session and encourages staff to consider helpful ways to talk to students when they have an issue, to consider appropriate and professional boundaries, and provides the opportunity to discuss real case studies in order to better understand how and when to refer students for support. Other sessions that may be useful are Professional Boundaries, Introduction to Resilience, Unconscious Bias, and Mindfulness training. To book a place on any of these sessions please follow the link.

Back to the mental health toolkit homepage