College students are heading to campus in just a few short weeks, and many will be living away from home for the first time. This newfound freedom can be exciting yet anxiety-inducing for both parents and students.

The pressures of university are daunting – meeting new friends, carrying a full class load, sometimes pulling shifts at a new job and trying to figure out one’s place in it all can understandably feel overwhelming. Wisconsin is notorious for its party-hard culture; in fact, the University of Wisconsin repeatedly tops national ‘party school’ lists.

Many argue that drinking and casual drug use is part of the “college experience” – the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 37.9% of college students reported binge drinking in the past month – but for some, it’s not just a way to blow off steam. Based on that study, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that 20% of college students meet the criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder.

Here are a few warning signs families should watch for:

  1. Inability to make new connections and/or not maintaining existing close friendships

Navigating new friendships is undoubtedly tough, but if your college student is painfully avoiding new relationships entirely, there might be something causing that avoidance. Feelings of isolation can trigger many to use substances to escape those feelings, so be sure to stay in touch, offer an ear or suggest seeing a campus therapist (they’re often free of charge for students in the wellness center or medical clinic).

Conversely, if your daughter has had the same group of close friends for a long time and suddenly cuts off all ties, you might want to explore why those relationships ended. Questionable new habits can end old relationships quickly, so be mindful of all that’s at play.

  1. Skipping class

While at times skipping class can merely be a college student enjoying her newfound freedom, skipping class frequently can be cause for concern.

  1. Sleeping during the day

It’s common that between late night study sessions and early morning classes, students will catch a nap at any free moment; but, if regular sleep patterns evolve to sleeping the day away (and skipping class), be sure to touch base and try to figure out what’s going on.

  1. Change in behaviors and attitude

This one ties closely to #1 on our list. You know your daughter well – her interests, her mannerisms, her general attitudes toward school, friends and extracurricular activities. If you witness a noticeable change in how she feels about these things, it may indicate increased use of drugs or alcohol.

  1. Drastic change in appearance

Weight loss or gain is almost inevitable for most college students, especially in the first few months. That said, though, a noticeable increase or decrease in weight paired with other telltale signs of drug or alcohol use – red eyes, unexplained bruising or sores, track marks, twitching and shaking, among other things – can all be signs of concern.

  1. An unreasonably high need for money

New friends, often a new city and opportunities to try new things can be pricey. Students living on their own for the first time will often splash out early in the semester before facing the consequences of a hefty credit card bill or empty bank account. Keep a close eye (if you can) on where the money is going – or if there seems to be lots of cash withdrawals. Don’t be afraid to have the money talk if something doesn’t seem right.

If you’re noticing these warning signs in your child, reach out and ask questions in a nonjudgmental, empathetic way. If these signs and your concerns persist, reach out to the team of experts at Shorewood House at (414) 977-5890 to determine what resources are available.