Getting High-risk Students Help

Getting High-risk Students Help

Identification of and Interventions for High-risk Students


Research supports activities to proactively identify and intervene as early as possible with students at risk for problems related to alcohol or drug use. Therefore, the Maryland Collaborative supports universal screening in traditional settings, such as health or counseling centers, and possibly other touchpoints like residential life and academic assistance centers. For health and counseling centers, we recommend the use of short, validated tools (e.g., the AUDIT-C) which can be administered both electronically or by pen-and-paper. Students who screen as high risk could then be referred to further assessment, intervention, and, if needed, treatment.

When a student is identified as being at risk for a substance use problem, meaningful conversations, which often only take a few minutes, can be helpful to assess the student’s level of motivation and commitment to change. The conversation can then facilitate help-seeking, because we know young adults often don’t seek help on their own.


Maryland Collaborative staff work with colleges on strategies to achieve widespread screening and intervention that are tailored to the needs of the campus.

  • Health centers: Many health issues that students present with (e.g., injury, illness, poor sleep) are often related to alcohol or drug use, and federal guidelines have strongly recommended screening for alcohol consumption at all health visits for individuals 18 and older.1
  •  Counseling centers: Just like at health centers, students who come to a counseling center might present with problems that are related to substance use.
  • Student conduct: Violations of alcohol policy are a clear signal that a student is at high risk for alcohol problems. Student conduct professionals can use a tiered approach to assess the level of the problem and refer the student to the most appropriate place to get the help they need.
  • Academic assistance centers: Research shows a consistent relationship between excessive drinking, marijuana use, and academic engagement (see Engaging Academic Assistance for more information). Maryland Collaborative staff can help campuses determine whether or not screening behavioral health concerns in academic assistance centers might be a sensible strategy.
  • Residential life: Because of their close relationship with students, resident assistants (RAs) and other residential life staff have a unique opportunity to recognize students at risk for alcohol-related problems and have meaningful conversations with them to facilitate help-seeking.
  • Athletics: Research shows that alcohol use increases injury risk, slows recovery from “wear and tear,” and diminishes sleep quality. Coaches and athletic trainers have a unique opportunity to have conversations with student-athletes that encourage self-reflection about how alcohol might be interfering with athletic and academic performance and how to reduce their risk for problems.


1 Moyer, V. A. (2013). Screening and behavioral counseling interventions in primary care to reduce alcohol misuse: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Annals of Internal Medicine, 159(3), 210-218.