Substance Use, Alcohol and Other Drugs

For many, college is a time to try new things. You may be making decisions about drinking or using other drugs. Deciding to use alcohol or other drugs is a personal choice. The decisions that you make can also affect others in your life. Some will choose not to use alcohol and other drugs at all, others will try them and won't use them again and some will continue to use them.


Alcohol

Alcohol is one of the oldest and most widely used drugs worldwide. The reasons why people choose to drink alcohol are countless. Alcohol, like other drugs, can cause problems depending on the way it is used and can result in injury, disease and other negative consequences. It's important to be aware of what can happen so it doesn't cause problems down the road.

Potentially Problematic Forms of Alcohol use:

  • Binge drinking
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol
  • Using alcohol as a way of dealing with problems
  • Mixing alcohol with other substances, including illegal drugs and/or some medications

Regardless of the drinking choices we make, everyone can benefit from understanding that alcohol is not like any other drink: it’s absorbed differently, it’s eliminated differently, and it affects us differently.

People absorb alcohol at different rates due to weight, body type, metabolism, gender, whether you have eaten before drinking and any medication being taken. The strength and size of a drink and how quickly the drinks are consumed also play into how drunk someone becomes. The effects of drinking alcohol are also dependent on your state of mind (are you stressed, bummed out or feeling good).

Alcohol makes us think, move, and react slower. After one drink you may feel more relaxed. As you continue to drink, your coordination, balance and reaction time become more and more impaired. Judgment and ability to make decisions are also affected.

Being able to make educated decisions regarding drinking alcohol can help to prevent alcohol from becoming a problem in your life. Understanding the effects of alcohol and the risks associated with alcohol use can help you in many ways:

  • You can make a more informed decision about whether or not to drink
  • If you choose to drink, you can make safer decisions about drinking
  • You can reduce the risks associated with using alcohol, including injury, unwanted sex and being a victim of crime

To learn more check out the Helpful Links on this page and/or contact the Campus Nurse at Student Support Services.

Drugs

There are many kinds of drugs and many reasons why someone would try them or use them regularly. Some believe using drugs will help them to be more popular or to cope with their problems. Others may try out of curiosity or because their friends are doing drugs. We recognize that people experience both positive and negative effects from their use of substances, legal or illegal. The effects of using drugs are not uniform but unique to each individual.

Potential Problematic Factors for Drug Use:

  • The reasons for using a drug. For example, motives for intense short-term use (i.e. to fit in or alleviate temporary stress) may result in risky behaviour with high potential for immediate harm (i.e. accidents, sexual assault).
  • The places, times and activities associated with substance use. (i.e. using substances before or while driving, using in situations when strong emotion, anxiety or frustration are likely).
  • Overall social and cultural context surrounding drug use. (i.e. economic availability of different drugs-the cheaper the drug, the more available they are or what is accepted in the community).
  • Personal factors, both physical/mental health and wellness.
  • Certain factors about the drugs - amount used, frequency of use, purity of the drug, mode of use and chemical properties of the drug.

Drugs are often categorized as legal versus illegal, or soft versus hard. But these groupings can be misleading since they don’t accurately reflect the levels of risk associated with using them. A more useful classification involves impact on the brain and spinal cord, also known as the central nervous system (CNS):

Depressants decrease activity in the CNS (e.g., decrease heart rate and breathing). Depressants bring on feelings of relaxation and satisfaction. Alcohol and heroin are examples of depressants.

Stimulants increase activity in the CNS (e.g. increased heart rate and breathing). Stimulants produce feelings of pleasure, power, self-confidence and increased energy. Amphetamines and cocaine are examples of stimulants.

Hallucinogens affect the CNS by causing perceptual distortions. Magic mushrooms and LSD are examples of hallucinogens.

Note: Some drugs, such as cannabis, are not easily classified because they fit into more than one category.

Being able to make educated decisions regarding drug use can help to prevent it from becoming a problem in your life. Understanding the risks associated with drug use means:

  • You can make a more informed decision about whether or not to use drugs
  • If you choose to use drugs, you can take steps to reduce harms associated with drug use

To learn more check out the Helpful Links on this page and/or contact the Campus Nurse at Student Support Services.