Health Services - Alcohol / Drug / Nicotine Assistance & Counseling FAQ's

Drug / Alcohol / Nicotine FAQ’S

What are some signs of a drinking or other drug problem? When should I think about seeking professional help?

It’s not always easy to see when your drinking has crossed the line from moderate or social use to problem drinking. But if you consume alcohol to cope with difficulties or to avoid feeling bad, you’re in potentially dangerous territory. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse can sneak up on you, so it’s important to be aware of the warning signs and take steps to cut back if you recognize them. Understanding the problem is the first step to overcoming it.

Since drinking is so common in many cultures and the effects vary so widely from person to person, it’s not always easy to figure out where the line is between social drinking and problem drinking. The bottom line is how alcohol affects you. If your drinking is causing problems in your life, you have a drinking problem.

What does it mean to get "help" with an alcohol or other drug-related issue?

Help can take many forms. Examples of what a person might find helpful could be: reading a pamphlet, having a conversation, checking out a website, attending a support group or a more formal treatment program. Given that individuals can be at varying levels of readiness to take action, it is very important to try to match a program, therapist or support group to an individual's needs. The goal of all support services at Rutgers-Camden is to encourage students to explore their options.

Another word for help is treatment. Treatment can be one-to-one, in a group setting, and more or less structured. Treatment can be traditional, alternative, experimental or some combination thereof. Self-help groups like AA can be a supplement to more formal treatment, a tool for continued recovery, or a place to start.

What can I expect when I come to your program and meet with a counselor?

Alcohol / Drug / Nicotine (ADN) counseling is an opportunity to explore your overall health and well-being, in relation to personal use of alcohol / drugs or nicotine, or in relation to someone else's use of alcohol / drugs or nicotine. Counseling is a confidential, supportive place to discuss what is happening in your life, with a professional who will:

  • Be caring
  • Listen
  • Provide helpful information
  • Be objective and non-judgmental
  • Explore alternatives

ADN counseling can be a single meeting consultation, short term (2 to 6 meetings), or longer depending on the goals you want to accomplish.  These meetings will help you address troubling experiences or feelings, or can be used to support changes you wish to make in your life.

I was arrested and charged with a drinking and/or drug related offense.  Can your program help with this?

This program provides Individual alcohol / drug counseling that may fulfill a legal requirement due to an alcohol / drug related arrest, or may provide useful documentation in court related matters. 

What if I'm not ready to quit but would still like to talk to someone?

People change at different rates, in different ways. Most people do not decide to make a big change on an impulse. They are more likely to have been grappling with the pros and cons of making that change. Getting to the point where someone is determined to change can take months, even years, and people often change their minds about making changes.

If you're not ready to quit, but have thought about it, you can talk with someone about your ambivalence. You can discuss strategies for reducing risk and making smaller changes. Staff is available to engage in a discussion about your substance use that need not center on why you must quit. Of course, if you decide you want to quit, we can talk with you about that, too.

What can I do if I'm worried about my friend's use of alcohol or other drugs?

Some common signs of a possible substance-related issue are changes in mood, behavior or appearance; sleeping or eating too much or too little; grades slipping, attendance problems; nodding off or displaying manic behavior; defensive or secretive affect.

It's important to remember that while a number of factors could contribute to the above and there is no one guaranteed way to help a friend, there are many things worth trying. Once you feel that you're ready to talk with your friend, here are some tips that may help things go more smoothly. (Remember, your friend may not see things the way you do, or may not be ready to admit that they do.)

  • Wait until your friend is sober; make sure there is enough time for the talk
  • Know that it's okay to be nervous, but try to stay calm
  • Use what are called "I" statements:
    • I really care about you.
    • I have noticed that you have been acting differently lately.
    • I have missed you in classes and it seems like you've been going out a lot.
    • I'm just wondering if everything is okay."

Your friend may say that everything is fine. You may need to play it by ear about whether to push more or back off. There is no one right answer. Even if your friend seems to have completely ignored you, your effort still has value. You have done what is called 'planting the seed.' You have articulated a concern, and while it may not produce immediate change, your words may resonate with your friend over time. You may not be the only one to raise a concern-the effect can be cumulative. The remarks of one person can be more easily ignored than those of numbers of people.

Everyone has his or her own ideas about what it means to be a good friend. Sometimes it means being brave enough to say your piece.

What about confidentiality?

Confidentiality is a professionally and legally complex issue, not subject to a thorough explanation in a few sentences. Information that a student shares with his/her services provider in the course of a meeting will be treated as confidential material. Treating information confidentially means not releasing it to anyone outside the agency without the student's permission, including Rutgers University personnel.  Under certain, special circumstances, however, information may be released without the student's permission. The main -- although not the only -- exceptions to confidentiality arise in situations involving: 

  • danger to self or others
  • court orders or subpoena of records
  • child abuse or neglect

Your presence and participation in the Alcohol / Drug / Nicotine Assistance Program is safeguarded in that:

  1. Information is not released to family and/or friends;
  2. Information is not released to any other part of the Rutgers community (i.e., faculty, staff, etc.).
  3. If anyone calls us about you, we will not acknowledge your presence in the program.
  4. All of the above holds true, unless you give us permission to release information.

Students are encouraged to discuss any concerns they have about confidentiality with their provider of services.

Do you have to be an alcoholic to experience problems?

No. Alcoholism is only one type of an alcohol problem. Alcohol abuse can be just as harmful. A person can abuse alcohol without actually being an alcoholic--that is, he or she may drink too much and too often but still not be dependent on alcohol. Some of the problems linked to alcohol abuse include not being able to meet work, school, or family responsibilities; drunk-driving arrests and car crashes; and drinking-related medical conditions. Under some circumstances, even social or moderate drinking is dangerous--for example, when driving, during pregnancy, or when taking certain medications.

Are specific groups of people more likely to have problems?

Alcohol abuse and alcoholism cut across gender, race, and nationality. In the United States, 17.6 million people--about l in every 12 adults--abuse alcohol or are alcohol dependent. In general, more men than women are alcohol dependent or have alcohol problems. And alcohol problems are highest among young adults ages 18-29 and lowest among adults ages 65 and older. We also know that people who start drinking at an early age--for example, at age 14 or younger--are at much higher risk of developing alcohol problems at some point in their lives compared to someone who starts drinking at age 21 or after.

Can a problem drinker simply cut down?

It depends. If that person has been diagnosed as an alcohol dependent, the answer most likely is "no." People thus diagnosed who try to cut down on drinking rarely succeed. Cutting out alcohol--that is, abstaining--is usually the best course for recovery. People who are not alcohol dependent but who have experienced alcohol-related problems may be able to limit the amount they drink. If they can't stay within those limits, they most likely need to stop drinking altogether.