For many people, moderate alcohol use (one drink/day for women and two for men) is a relatively harmless facet of social interaction and/or relaxation. However, moderate use lies at one end of a continuum that includes both abuse and dependence. The college years can be a particularly high risk time for people as they navigate a world that is largely free of externally imposed limits and structure. While most college students who choose to drink do so responsibly, others develop patterns of heavy use and/or binge drinking. Students with problematic alcohol use often experience negative consequences as a result, including blackouts, physical fights, or unwanted sexual experiences. Visit the Rethinking Drinking website to learn more about this issue.  

Check out Recovery@ - a network of Wesleyan students and administrators who gather for mutual support as they navigate the particular challenges of recovery at Wesleyan University.

What is the difference between abuse and dependence?

  • Alcohol Abuse

    Alcohol abuse occurs when a person's pattern of consumption leads to impairment in functioning at work, school, home or in relationships. Common indications of alcohol abuse include driving under the influence, recurrent alcohol-related legal problems, declining academic or work performance, and relationship conflict due to alcohol use.

  • Alcohol Dependence
    Commonly called "alcoholism," alcohol dependence involves a strong craving for alcohol, loss of control while drinking, physical withdrawal symptoms in the aftermath of consumption (nausea, sweatiness, shakiness, anxiety), increased tolerance for alcohol, inability to stop or limit alcohol consumption despite repeated attempts to do so, increased time spent drinking and recovering from it, and continued consumption in spite of harm to life, relationships, and physical well-being.
  • When to Worry

    It may not be obvious when a friend has problematic alcohol consumption, but there are warning signs that, when added together, may suggest he or she is struggling with this issue. Some of the warning signals are as follows:

    • Poor class attendance
    • Declining academic performance
    • Increasingly negative or indifferent attitude toward academics
    • Consumption for the purpose of becoming intoxicated
    • Personality changes while either intoxicated or sober
    • Frequent blackouts
    • Frequent sexual encounters while intoxicated
    • Verbal expression of emotional issues only while intoxicated
    • Recurrent difficulties with Res Life, PSafe, Dean's office, SJB due to behavior while intoxicated.

    While this list is not exhaustive, if you observe several of these signs in someone you know there is a good chance this person has a problem with alcohol.

  • How to Express Concern
    Be sure to have the conversation in private, when your friend is sober. Strive to be empathic, concerned, and nonjudgmental. Be descriptive and concrete about the signs you have noticed that worry you. Mention your concerns about potential negative consequences. Offer to accompany your friend to CAPS to talk things over with a therapist. If you reach out to a friend and still remain worried, call us at CAPS (860.685.2910) and we can help you think through ways to more effectively talk to your friend about your concerns.