If a student comes to class high or drunk, you should send him or her home via safe transportation. This may be a hospital, detox center, or home. Contact family or a friend to pick up the individual or call the police who will transport the person to the hospital. Do NOT allow them to drive. Check with your program manager regarding the school policy and plan.
If a student is experiencing withdrawal or if you suspect this is the reason for his or her inattention, consider the following:
- If you don’t know the student’s habits, ask him or her if they have recently consumed a drug or alcohol. If yes, ask if they are experiencing a hangover. Suggest they let it work itself out and come back the next day. If they answer no, describe the behavior you are seeing and ask them to explain. If they deny a problem, continue to work with them, if possible, or ask them to come back on another day when they feel more “together” or alert.
- If you know the student abuses drugs or alcohol, point out how you see it affecting their academic work and ask whether they want to continue. If they answer yes, ask if they can abstain while attending classes. If again they answer yes or describe good intentions, ask whether they know of a resource that will help them keep that pledge.
- Ask for a commitment to contact a support group or counselor if they don’t have one already, and provide a referral if necessary. Wish them well and ask them to return when they have been sober at least one week. Tell them you are looking forward to seeing them then. See the resources section for referral information.
In any crisis, go slow, be patient, and model calm behavior. Help the person feel secure by establishing a relationship of respect and trust. Let the person know what is going to happen. Most importantly, work with what is familiar and be consistent.
If the person is angry or aggressive:
Anger and aggression can accompany an individual who is craving or who has been using.
If an outburst does occur:
- Remain calm. Always model calm behavior.
- Do not try to argue or reason with the person
- Agree with the 10% of the person’s argument that is true. It is very difficult to argue with someone who is agreeing with you.
- Redirect if possible, use the person’s name.
- Remove the person from the situation to a calm environment. If individual is unwilling to do that, remove the other people from the situation.
- Give eye contact, and talk to the person at their physical level.
- Ask for help from others including security, if needed.
- When the person is sober, provide concrete, non-judgmental feedback about how their behavior affected them and others.
- Set up a concrete no-use contract with strategies. Write out, in detail, expectations and follow through with any consequences. Give a copy to the person and keep one for yourself.