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Substance Abuse

If you choose to drink, it's always smart to have a good plan. In fact, planning makes any social experience a lot more fun and memorable. The same goes for social events during which there is alcohol consumption.

First and foremost, plan on who is going to be the designated driver or how you can find other means of transportation. Second, think about how long the social event is going to last (i.e. tail-gating, a wedding reception or all-night party). Avoid rapid drinking or drinking games. When you play drinking games, you’re not in control of how much you drink.

Alcohol Abuse and Dependence

When Does Alcohol Abuse Become Alcohol Dependence?

Many of the signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse overlap with the signs and symptoms of alcohol dependency. There is a fine line between the two, but the crossover occurs when the person becomes dependent on alcohol.

An alcoholic is unable to control their drinking, they have built up a tolerance to alcohol which over time requires them to drink larger quantities of alcohol in order to obtain the same effect, and they will usually experience withdrawal symptoms when they don't drink.

Signs And Symptoms Of Alcohol Abuse:


  • Continuing to drink even though you have health problems that are affected or caused by your drinking

Financial issues

  • Paying bills late; collection agencies calling
  • Inability to keep track of your money

Legal issues

  • Driving while under the influence (DUI)

Risky behavior

  • Putting yourself or others in danger

Employment or school

  • Continuing to drink even though you realize your job or education is in jeopardy
  • Missing work or school, or going in late due to alcohol use

Family and friends

  • Feeling annoyed when other people comment on, or criticize your drinking habits
  • Feeling remorse or guilt after drinking
  • Associating with questionable acquaintances or frequenting out of the ordinary locations when drinking

Social life

  • Scheduling your day around drinking
  • Focusing recreational activities around obtaining alcohol, drinking or recovering from alcohol use
  • Drinking alone or in secret

 Signs And Symptoms Of Alcohol Dependence:


  • Strong and overwhelming desire to drink alcohol at a specific time or the next morning
  • Creating a ritual of having drinks before, with, or after dinner, and becoming annoyed when this pattern is disturbed or questioned


  • A tendency to drink more than intended to feel the same effect, or being unable to stop drinking once you start to drink alcohol
  • Consuming a large quantity of alcohol without appearing intoxicated

Effects on memory and motivation

  • Not remembering conversations or commitments; sometimes referred to as a "blackout"
  • Losing interest in activities and hobbies that were once pleasurable

Alcohol Use and Resources

Alcohol Poisoning:

Alcohol poisoning is a serious - and sometimes deadly - consequence of consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. Alcohol poisoning information.

Binge Drinking:

Bing drinking is the dangerous practice of consuming large quantities of alcoholic beverages in a single session. Binge drinking carries a serious risk of harm, including alcohol poisoning. Binge drinking information.

Blood Alcohol Calculator:

Don’t risk it! Whether you are driving, or just want to ensure you have a safe evening if you’re drinking, plan ahead. You can calculate your blood alcohol level for free.

Note: Some online sites offer blood alcohol calculators, like this one, which allow you to estimate your blood alcohol levels based on how much alcohol you intend to consume or how much you have consumed. However, it is important to note that legally the courts will rely only on the official blood alcohol levels taken by law enforcement officers or hospital personnel.

Getting Help

Make a Plan

Before you engage your friend in a conversation, you'll need to prepare yourself. Go for a walk, sit where you can't be disturbed, and think. Reflect on the facts of the situation. Organize your thoughts. Decide what you want to say to your friend. Focus on a tone that is assertive, but not aggressive. Think about what resources you might need: a parent, a counselor, your faith leader, a school counselor, etc. Once you start the conversation, remain calm and supportive.

Discuss your concerns and identify some of the changes that you've seen in your friend. For example, you were at a party and saw your friend using drugs or acting in a way that you find inconsistent with their "normal" behavior; their grades have slipped or they're missing classes; your friend has changed from being "the person you know" to someone who is getting into trouble at home, or school, or in the community; or simply, you have noticed your friend has become quiet and secretive. Tell them you miss them and that you're concerned about them and that's why you want to talk. You may also decide that writing a note to your friend might be an appropriate first step.


After presenting your side of the story, ask your friend for his/her response to the information you've presented. Listen to your friend. Hear what he/she is saying. Offer your help or ask them if they think they need a professional's help.

Continue the Conversation

Determine a time when you and your friend will follow up about the discussion. Talking to your friend about drugs may be a continuous process -- not a one-time event. Let your friend know that you'd like to touch base about the situation again in the near future because you care about them. And, for you, don't be afraid to ask an adult who you can trust for help.

Key Talking Points
  • I don't want anything to happen to you or for you to hurt yourself.
  • We all count on you. Your brothers/sisters (if applicable) look up to you/care about you, as do I. What would they do if you were gone?
  • Look at all the things that you would miss out on. Drugs and alcohol can ruin your future and chances to… keep your drivers' license, graduate, go to college and get a job.
  • What can I do to help you? I am here to support you.
  • Are there other problems you want to talk about?
  • Are you feeling pressure to use? Let's talk about it.
  • I love you and I won't give up on you.
  • If you need professional help or you need an adult to talk to, I can help you find someone. I will be here to help you and support you every step of the way.

Talking to a Parent or Supportive Adult

If you decide that your friend's problem is bigger than both of you, it may be time to bring the issue up with your parents, your friend's parents, or another supportive adult (coach, doctor, etc.). Keep in mind that only you know the people and relationships involved. Talking to a counselor about this decision may also be a good idea if you're not sure how your parents or your friend's parents will react.

It's Not Your Fault

Helping a friend with a drug or alcohol problem is hard work and can be a very difficult experience for you as well as your friend. You may feel a great deal of pressure to get your friend to stop drinking or doing drugs. Or you may get discouraged if your efforts to convince your friend to stop using drugs or alcohol don't work. But it is important to know that your friend's drug or alcohol use is NOT your fault. Remember that it's ultimately up to your friend to make that change and you can't do that for him. Sometimes, as much as you may try to get your friend to quit or seek help, you just can't seem to make it happen. If this becomes the situation you are in, you should do one of the following:

  • Seek support from other friends or trusted adults - your friend is not the only one who needs help in this situation.
  • Limit the time you spend with your drug or alcohol-using friend. Remember your friend's use may also be putting you at risk.
  • Start thinking about yourself-get out and participate in activities that you enjoy to take your mind off of the situation.



The Alcohol and Drug Addiction Resource Center

Drug & Alcohol Help Line:

Narcotics Anonymous: 
(319) 291-8803
Closest Local Meeting: 
St. Paul’s Church
612 West 3rd Street
Sumner, IA

Alcoholics Anonymous: 
(563) 578-1121
Sumner Group
City Hall, 105 1st Street 
(meeting is Closed and is at 8 p.m. on Saturdays, upstairs of city hall)

For over 55 years, Al-Anon (which includes Alateen for younger members) has been offering strength and hope for friends and families of problem drinkers. It is estimated that each alcoholic affects the lives of at least four other people... alcoholism is truly a family disease. No matter what relationship you have with an alcoholic, whether they are still drinking or not, all who have been affected by someone else’s drinking can find solutions that lead to serenity in the Al-Anon/Alateen fellowship.

Abbe Center for Community Mental Health in the former Backbone Area Counseling Center, located at 129 S. Vine St. in West Union. The center, which serves six counties throughout Iowa, offers a variety of services, including family counseling, individual counseling and general mental health services. Extended support includes the option of in-home visits.

Counselors will be available at the center Monday through Friday and during limited evening hours. Psychiatrist Dr. Doug Jones will be available at the center on Tuesdays. Please call (563) 422-5344 for an appointment.

Upper Iowa Policy and State Law

Upper Iowa Policy

General Philosophy:

Upper Iowa University is committed to creating a drug free environment that promotes the intellectual, social, emotional, spiritual or ethical, and physical well-being of its community members. This commitment includes encouraging and reinforcing healthy, responsible living and respect for campus standards and regulations, and adherence to community laws.

  • Members of the University community who are legal age (21 or older) are expected to make responsible decisions about the use of alcohol and to assume full responsibility for their personal conduct and actions.
  • In consideration of state and local laws, the possession and use of alcohol by underage persons is prohibited on University property.
  • Drugs – In consideration of federal, state and local laws, the possession, use or sale of illicit drugs or possession of drug paraphernalia is prohibited on any University campus.

Student Handbook.

Alcohol Consumption in the Residence Halls:

  • Students of legal age living in the residence halls can consume alcoholic beverages inside their rooms on a personal basis. The student choosing to consume alcoholic beverages shall do so with care and in a responsible manner.
  • Open containers of any kind containing alcoholic beverages are not permitted outside the student’s room, including, but not limited to, all common areas of the residence hall.
  • Students of legal age are not permitted to give alcohol to any student not of legal age (under 21).

Iowa Law

In general, state laws prohibit:

  • Consuming, possessing or purchasing an alcoholic beverage if you are under 21 (Minor in Possession or “MIP”)
  • Consuming or possessing an alcoholic beverage in a public place
  • Possessing an open or unsealed container in a motor vehicle (when the container is within the immediate reach of the driver)
  • Possession of an open or unsealed alcoholic beverage by a passenger in the passenger area of a motor vehicle (Exceptions apply to taxis, limousines and motor homes)
  • Public intoxication
  • Pretending to be intoxicated
  • Giving or selling an alcoholic beverage to someone under age 21
  • Giving or selling an alcoholic beverage to anyone who is intoxicated
  • Lending your driver’s license to someone or knowingly permitting someone else to use it

Each of the above violations is a simple misdemeanor offense punishable by up to 30 days imprisonment, a fine of at least $50.00 but not more than $500.00, or both. For certain offenses, mandatory fines and periods of driver’s license suspension apply.

Retail Outlets/Liquor Licensees

If an employee of a licensed liquor establishment or a alcohol retail outlet serves a minor, the employee and the establishment are each fined $1,500.00. This penalty applies to anyone who knowingly or by failing to exercise reasonable care, provided alcohol to a minor.

Social Hosts: Providing Alcohol to a Minor

An individual over age 21 who gives, sells or supplies an alcoholic beverage to a person under the legal age commits a serious misdemeanor and is subject to a fine of between $500.00 and $1,500.00 and may also be sentenced to up to one year of jail time. If injury results from the actions of an intoxicated minor, the individual who provided the alcohol commits an aggravated misdemeanor and is subject to two years imprisonment and a fine of between $500.00 and $5,000.00. If death results from having furnished alcohol, the offense is a Class D felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment.

“Fake I.D.”

Anyone under the age of 21 who alters, displays or possesses a fictitious or fraudulently altered license and uses it to purchase alcohol can lose their driver’s license for up to 6 months. This offense is also a simple misdemeanor.

Operating While Intoxicated (OWI)

Under state law, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This means driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or greater or driving while under the influence of another drug, such as marijuana or certain prescription medications.

A person convicted of a first offense OWI can be fined up to $1,250.00 and can be placed in county jail for up to one year. However, at the court’s discretion, up to $625.00 of this fine may be waived if there was no personal injury or property damage. The minimum jail time is 48 hours. For a second offense, the individual will be confined for a minimum of seven days and fined not less than $1,875.00 and not more than $6,250.00 For a third or subsequent OWI conviction (a Class D Felony), the individual will be imprisoned between thirty days and five years and will be assessed a fine of not less than $3,125.00 and not more than $9,375.00.

In addition to fines and jail time, those convicted for OWI forfeit their driving privileges for a minimum of 180 days (The revocation period is even greater if the individual refuses the blood alcohol test OR has previous OWI convictions.) In the past, OWI violators could obtain work or school permits even though their license had been revoked. With recent legislative changes, there is now a “hard suspension” period, during which time, no temporary licenses are granted. After the hard suspension period has passed, a work or school permit will only be granted after an ignition interlock device is installed on each of the person’s vehicles. This device connects to an automobile’s ignition system and prevents the vehicle from being started if the intended driver has been drinking.

Minor in Possession (MIP):

First offense - Simple misdemeanor punishable by a $200.00 fine plus court costs.

Second offense - Simple misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $500.00. In addition, the violator must choose to either complete a substance abuse evaluation or have their driver's license suspended for up to one year.

Third (and subsequent) offenses -Simple misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $500.00 AND driver's license suspension for up to one year.

Iowa's alcohol and other drug laws Chapter 124 is Controlled Substances, or Chapter 123 for Alcohol laws.

Federal drug penalties.