Staying Healthy: Alcohol and Substance Use

January 29, 2024
Jennifer Brown

Jennifer Brown

Alcohol, tobacco and substance use are common among young adults; problematic alcohol use is especially prevalent on college campuses. There are a variety of factors that influence individual patterns of alcohol or substance use. For example, social environments like college campuses where drinking is more common may foster greater engagement in binge drinking and other problematic alcohol behaviors. Individuals may also use alcohol or other substances as a strategy to cope with stress or manage other mental health symptoms like anxiety or depression. Expectancies and other beliefs about substances may also contribute to their use. Perceived norms and beliefs about what is common and acceptable have been linked to differing patterns of alcohol and marijuana use (SAMHSA, 2019).  

Substance misuse can result in several potential negative consequences. For instance, problematic alcohol use may affect sleep and exacerbate other mental health symptoms. Other serious health consequences such as overdose may also occur when using substances. Substance misuse may also impact academic performance or fulfilling other responsibilities. Unintentional injuries or other consequences (e.g., disciplinary issues or legal problems) may be more likely to occur when someone is using substances.  

If you are concerned about your use of alcohol or other substances, consider completing a brief screening measure: 


  • The Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test-Concise (AUDIT-C; Saunders et al., 1993) screens for potential problematic alcohol use. The measure is scored from 0 – 12. In men, a score of four or more is considered a positive screen for potential problematic alcohol use. In women, a score of three or more is considered a positive screen for potential problematic alcohol use. 

 -Tobacco, Alcohol, Prescription Medication, and Other Substance use: 

  • The Tobacco, Alcohol, Prescription Medication, and Other Substance use (TAPS) tool screens for potential problems with tobacco, alcohol, prescription medications and other substances (McNeely et al., 2016). Scores of zero indicate no use in the past three months; a score of one indicates problem use with scores of two or more indicating high-risk use.  

These measures are designed to be brief screening tools. If you are concerned about your substance use or screening results, you should consult a health professional or schedule an appointment for an in-depth assessment with a local substance use treatment provider. Purdue University and community treatment resources are provided below. Harm reduction practices such as carrying naloxone (the medication used to reverse opioid overdoses) and strategies to reduce levels of substance use are important to reduce experiencing adverse health outcomes and other negative consequences of substance use.  

Jennifer Brown: is an associate professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Purdue University. Her research addresses substance use and infectious disease health disparities domestically and globally. She is a licensed clinical psychologist with expertise in the delivery of substance use treatment and behavioral medicine interventions. 


Purdue University Counseling and Psychological Services: (765) 494-6995 

 Purdue Psychology Treatment and Research Clinics: (765) 494-6977 

Substance use and mental health treatment locator through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 

National helpline with treatment referral and information: 1-800-629-4357 

Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Call or text 988 


 McNeely J, Wu L, Subramaniam G, Sharma G, Cathers LA, Svikis D, et al.Performance of the Tobacco, Alcohol, Prescription Medication, and Other Substance Use (TAPS) Tool for Substance Use Screening in Primary Care Patients.Ann Intern Med. 2016;165:690-699. doi: 10.7326/M16-0317 

 Saunders, J. B., Aasland, O. G., Babor, T. F., de la Fuente, J. R., & al., E. (1993). Development of the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT): WHO collaborative project on early detection of persons with harmful alcohol consumption: II. Addiction, 88(6), 791-804.  

 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Behavioral Health among College Students Information & Resource Kit. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 19-5052. (2019). Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.