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Alcohol Abuse and other Substances of Abuse

Most college students who use alcohol started drinking in high school, and their current alcohol use is a continuation of that behavior. Some of the reasons college students cite for using alcohol include:

  • to escape boredom and loneliness
  • to meet a romantic/sexual partner
  • to celebrate special occasions or to liven up parties
  • to feel accepted or simply because others are doing it and
  • to relieve nervousness, stress, anger, sadness, fear or other negative emotions

While this activity may begin as fun, it usually does not take long for alcohol-related problems to develop. The following information is provided as a guide to recognizing some of the problems associated with alcohol abuse.

Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse

  1. Preoccupation - thinking or talking about drinking when the person should be concerned about other matters. Preoccupation with the experience of "getting high" is a hallmark of alcohol dependency. Preoccupation with alcohol often leads to loss of interest in activities that were once important or central to the person's life.
  2. Increased tolerance - having the ability to drink more than a social drinker and remain remarkably efficient mentally and physically.
  3. Gulping drinks - drinking alcohol in such a manner that it will act quickly upon the body. The primary intention in drinking is usually to "get buzzed."
  4. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, ranging from mild to severe, following abstinence from alcohol or following an evening of heavy drinking. Consuming alcohol the morning after heavy drinking in order to mitigate withdrawal symptoms (i.e., tremors/shaking, nausea/vomiting, anxiety, etc.).
  5. Drinking alone - The person will drink when no one else is drinking. Hiding the quantity and/or frequency of your alcohol use from family, friends, peers, etc.
  6. Use as a medicine - uses alcohol as a tranquilizer for tension or anxiety or sometimes as a nightcap to help to get to sleep.
  7. Blackout - this is an experience of amnesia. Sometimes the morning after drinking, the drinker has difficulty recalling some of the events of the previous evening.
  8. Protecting the supply - the drinker feels more comfortable knowing that alcohol is available.
  9. Non-premeditated use - the drinker drinks more than he/she planned or knows he/she should drink or simply starts drinking without even thinking about it. His/her drinking is often different from what he/she would like it to be.
  10. Alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (i.e.: driving under the influence, operating machinery while intoxicated).

Indicators of Alcohol Abuse


  • inability to always control frequency and amount of intake
  • drinking continues despite knowledge of resulting negative effects
  • drinking normally results in impaired functioning and
  • drinking to stop withdrawal symptoms


  • observed abnormalities of skin, eyes, wobbly or staggered gait and slurred speech
  • pattern of frequent illness: hangovers, nausea and malnutrition
  • decreased concern about grooming and appearance and


  • use of alcohol to deal with stress, anger, boredom and social discomfort
  • guilt about behavior while intoxicated or following a drinking episode
  • dramatic mood swings and
  • anxious feelings

Impaired thinking:

  • decreased attention and concentration spans
  • increased forgetfulness
  • blackouts - total memory loss for periods of time
  • poor judgment and decision-making ability and
  • poor academic performance


  • family and other relationship difficulties
  • financial problems
  • legal problems - traffic or civil offenses
  • academic performance problems: missing classes, low grades, withdrawal from college
  • violent behavior: fights and vandalism
  • unplanned and unwanted sexual experiences and
  • offensive behavior or interfering with the rights of others

How to Avoid Developing Alcohol Related Problems

For people who choose to drink alcohol, these protective boundaries should be followed:

  • no drinking within six to eight hours before driving a car, working, or going to class
  • no more than three drinks in any 24-hour period
  • no more than one drink in any 60 to 90 minute period and
  • using the guidelines above, drink on no more than three occasions per week
  • avoid binge drinking. The National Institute on alcohol abuse and alcoholism defines binge drinking as "a pattern that corresponds to 5 or more drinks (male) or 4 or more drinks (female) in about 2 hours."
  • avoid drinking alcohol during stressful periods. Focus on using healthy stress-relievers during difficult times (i.e.: exercise, talking to friends, distracting with movies, music, etc.).

It is not recommended that these three groups drink alcohol:

  • pregnant or nursing women
  • anyone using sedative-hypnotic drugs such as tranquilizers, sleeping pills, or painkillers; seek the advice of a pharmacist or physician before using alcohol with all over-the-counter and prescription medications and
  • anyone with a personal history of alcohol or other drug abuse problems

Other Substances of Abuse


Street names: Pot, weed, herb, ganja
What is it? The dried leaves of the cannabis plant, which contains THC- the chemical that alters perception.
How is it taken? Smoked in a cigarette ("joint") in a water pipe ("bong") and in cigars ("blunt"); baked into brownies; brewed into tea.
What are the short-term effects? Gives a feeling of relaxation and can make regular things seem funny; can also invoke paranoid feelings.
What are the long-term effects/dangers? Can cause memory loss, shortened attention span, "apathetic" syndrome, weight gain, breathing problems, colds, heart palpitations, gynecomastia (guys growing breasts) and smoking-related cancers. Long-term, habitual use of marijuana is also associated with mental health issues including : depression, anxiety, personality disturbances, and psychotic episodes.

Synthetic Marijuana

Street names: Spice, k2, chiba, black mamba
What is it? A set of legal, synthetic cannabinoids. Synthetic marijuana is often sold in gas stations, convenience stores and "head shops."
How is it taken? Smoked in pipes, "joints", "blunts", or "bongs".
What are the short term effects? Feelings of euphoria; intoxication similar to marijuana. Increased heart rate, respiration, chest pains, anxiety, and paranoia have also been reported.
What are the long-term effects/dangers? As a newer substance of abuse, there is not much information regarding the long-term effects of its use. However, many users experience adverse reactions to synthetic marijuana including: severe paranoia, psychosis, depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.

Bath Salts

Street names: cloud 9, potpourri, incense, china white, dynamite
What is it? Legal, synthetic drugs, which mimic the effects of cocaine and/or methamphetamine. Often sold in gas stations and convenience stores.
How is it taken? Smoked, in pipes, "joints", "blunts", or "bongs."
What are the short term effects? Feelings of euphoria, increased heart rate, increased respiration, anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations and delusions.
What are the long-term effects/dangers?As another relatively new substance of abuse, there is not much information regarding the long-term effects of its use. However, many users experience negative consequences when using Bath Salts including: severe paranoia, depression and suicidal thinking.


Street names: Coke, blow, nose candy
What is it? A white powder stimulant extracted from the leaves of the coca plant.
How is it taken? It's snorted or dissolved in water and injected. It can also be smoked alone or in combination with other drugs (i.e.: with marijuana in a joint/blunt, etc).
What are the short-term effects? It increases energy; makes the heart beat faster; and makes you feel mentally "clear" for the duration of the high, which is anywhere from 15-30 minutes. Afterwards, the user can feel fatigue and insomnia from increased heart rate.
What are the long-term effects/dangers? Addiction; destruction of the nasal passages (if snorted); lung damage (if smoked); paranoia; aggression; depression; heart attack; and death. Depression, suicidal thinking and anxiety are long-term mental health effects of cocaine use due to its impact on the brain's neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine.


Street names: MDMA, X, the "love drug," E
What is it? MDMA is a stimulant. It is a chemical substance that combines methamphetamines with hallucinogenic properties. Because it is a combination of different illicit drugs, you never know whether it is laced with something more toxic.
How is it taken? It is available in tablet, capsule or powder form. It can be packaged to imitate prescription drugs.
What are the short-term effects? Gives a feeling of alertness and an energized euphoria. Some users experience a warm state of "empathy" for others. Increases heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. Ecstasy's effects can last up to 24 hours. Produces a sense of jitteriness at high doses. Some users combine MDMA with LSD ("acid"), a practice referred to as "candy flipping;" this combination puts user at a higher risk for adverse effects.
What are the long-term effects/dangers? Muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, rapid eye movement, faintness, and chills or sweating, depression, sleep problems, severe anxiety, and paranoia. MDMA has caused a number of deaths when used in conjunction with high levels of physical activity. MDMA damages the parts of the brain used for learning and memory. Ecstasy also causes the breakdown of neurons containing dopamine, leading to neurological damage similar to that seen in Parkinson's disease, a lack of coordination and tremors.

  • "Molly" – a term used to describe pure MDMA, is another dangerous drug of abuse. Many users are under the misconception that because of the chemical's purity, it poses little risk. Often times, "Molly" is not actually pure and sometimes it is not even MDMA. Users put themselves at risk consuming one or several unknown substances when they believe they are consuming "Molly". At high doses, users can experience cardiac arrest, hyperthermia, hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia.


Street names: Speed, uppers, bennies, dexies
What is it? A stimulant in tablet or pill form.
How is it taken? They're inhaled, injected or swallowed. Some users crush tablets and smoke the powder mixed with other substances (i.e.: marijuana).
What are the short-term effects?Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature; increased talkativeness; reduced appetite; visual and auditory hallucinations.
What are the long-term effects/dangers? Addiction; because they suppress your appetite, they can result in malnutrition; can cause paranoid psychosis.


Street names:Smack, dope, junk, brown sugar, thunder, hell dust, Big H, horse
What is it? An opiate narcotic that's made from morphine (which is made from the poppy seed), it's a bitter-tasting white to dark brown powder.
How is it taken? Injected, smoked or snorted.
What are the short-term effects? Gives a feeling, at first, of euphoria; limits the body's perception of pain; also creates a warm flushing of the skin; dry mouth; heavy extremities; constipation and slowed breathing. The high lasts about 15 minutes, followed by several hours of being "on the nod" feeling, alternately awake and drowsy. Users can easily overdose, especially because of uncertainty about the drug's purity prior to consumption. Combining heroin with other central nervous system depressants (i.e.: alcohol, anxiety medications, etc) can quickly lead to overdose due to respiratory and cardiac arrest.
What are the long-term effects/dangers? Addiction; complications from shooting up (collapsed veins, Hepatitis C, HIV, and AIDS); infection of the heart lining; and liver disease. Withdrawal symptoms include diarrhea and vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps (called "cold turkey"), uncontrollable kicking (known as "kicking the habit"), insomnia, muscle and bone pain, incessant yawning and runny nose. Withdrawal can set in within a few hours after the last use, peaks between 2-3 days later, and can last for up to a week. Heroin users tend to be at very high risk for relapse, especially because of the unpleasant nature of the withdrawal symptoms.


Street names: Acid, sugar cubes, trips
What is it? An hallucinogen that comes in colored tablets, blotter paper, clear liquid, or squares of gelatin.
How is it taken? It's taken orally; droplets of the gelatin or liquid can be taken through the eyes.
What are the short-term effects? Depends on the amount taken and the user's mood; increased heart rate and blood pressure; feeling different emotions all at once or in quick succession; can produce delusions and hallucinations – user may "cross over" and "hear" colors and "see" sounds, which can cause the user to panic.
What are the long-term effects/dangers? Flashbacks of the experience days or even years after LSD use.


Street names: Crystal meth, crank, glass, ice
What is it? An addictive stimulant, it's a crystal-like powder that's usually white or yellow depending on the purity; can also come in rock form.
How is it taken ? Injected, snorted, smoked, or swallowed.
What are the short-term effects? Increased activity level; suppressed appetite; a rush or "flash" feeling of well being when smoked or injected; a high when snorted or swallowed. Users often feel compelled to engage in impulsive and risky behaviors (i.e.: high risk sexual encounters, stealing/shoplifting, etc.).
What are the long-term effects/dangers? Tolerance comes quickly and user needs more meth to get the same high, forcing user to go on binges that last for days. Long-term users experience depression, anxiety, fatigue, paranoia, aggression, insomnia, hallucinations (especially "bugs under the skin"), delusions, sometimes suicidal or homicidal thoughts. Many users attempting to cease their habit have a particularly difficult time; methamphetamine users tend to have a high risk for relapse.


Street name: Angel dust
What is it? An anesthetic drug that's a tan-to-brown powder or gummy substance. It's often added to other drugs, such as pot, LSD, or methamphetamine and is taken inadvertently with those drugs. It also comes in tablets or capsules.
How is it taken? Injected, snorted, smoked, or swallowed.
What are the short-term effects? Feelings similar to alcohol intoxication; hallucinations; anxiety; disorientation; paranoia; and violent behavior.
What are the long-term effects/dangers? Memory loss; weight loss; depression; and loss of motor skills.


What is it? Chemical vapors, which are breathed in by the user, usually from typical household products. Inhalants include: volatile solvents (i.e.: paint thinner, correction fluid, degreasers, gasoline), aerosols (i.e.: spray paint, spray deodorant), gases (butane, propane, whipped cream aerosols/whippets, chloroform, nitrous oxide), and Nitrites ('leather cleaner', 'video head cleaner').
How is it taken? Inhalants are administered by "huffing" from the container, spraying substance into the nose/mouth, inhaling from a substance-soaked rag, inhaling from a bag/balloon.
What are the short term effects? Rapid and short-term high, euphoria, slurred speech, lack of coordination, dizziness, light-headedness, hallucinations, delusions, lowering of inhibitions, nausea, headache, confusion, vomiting, hypoxia (oxygen deprivation).
What are the long-term effects/dangers? Impaired memory, damage to myelin (which insulates nerves, damage to myelin can cause: muscle spasms, tremors, difficulty walking, bending, talking), Sudden Sniffing Death (SSD), suffocation, hearing loss, brain damage, peripheral neuropathies, bone marrow damage, liver and kidney damage, increased risk for STIs (due to high risk sex behavior associated w/the use of Nitrites).


Street names: Juice, rhoids
What is it? Manufactured testosterone-like drugs
How is it taken? Swallowed in tablets or liquid; or injected. Users take them in patterns called "cycling", which means they take them over a specific period of time, stop, then start taking them again instead of continuously using them.
What are the short-term effects? Increases muscle mass, strength, and endurance, but can also cause liver tumors, jaundice, water retention, high blood pressure; some users show bad judgment because the drugs make them feel invincible.
What are the long-term effects/dangers? Hypertension; high cholesterol; stunted growth; heart damage; women experience irreversible deepening of the voice and masculinization of genitalia; men experience shrinking of testicles and impotence.

Prescription Drugs

Drug Classes: The particular classes of prescription drugs that are frequently abused include: Prescription Stimulants (ADHD medications), Prescription Opioids (painkillers), and Benzodiazepines (a specific kind of anxiety medication).

Prescription Stimulants:

Legal, prescription drugs for the treatment of ADHD. These medications (Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta) are found in tablet form.
How is it taken? When taken as prescribed, these medications are taken orally. When used for recreation, they can be taken orally, crushed into a powder and snorted or smoked (often mixed with another substance, such as marijuana).
What are the short term effects? Prescription stimulants increase attention and concentration, as well as, alertness, energy, heart rate, and blood pressure.
What are the long-term effects/dangers? Addiction, cardiac problems, seizures, erratic weight changes, paranoia, and psychotic episodes.

Prescription Opioids:

Legal, prescription narcotics for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. These medications (i.e.:Oxycontin, Percocet, Demeral, Fentanyl, Vicodin, Codeine) are derived from substances from the opium poppy plant (either Morphine or Thebaine). These drugs are chemically very similar to the illegal drug, Heroin.
How is it taken? When taken as prescribed, these medications can be taken in tablet form by mouth, in a liquid form by mouth, or through a transdermal patch. When used for recreation, these substances can be taken by mouth in a tablet form, crushed into a powder and snorted or smoked, or cooked/and injected.
What are the short term effects?Relief of pain, "rush"/feeling of euphoria, feeling of tranquility, alternating states of drowsiness and alertness ("nodding"). Can cause constipation, general GI distress, as well as, overdose in the short term. Risk for overdose increases considerably when users combine these medications with other depressants (i.e.: alcohol, benzodiazepines) because these combinations cn potentiate respiratory depression and arrest.
What are the long-term effects/dangers? Addiction; the abuse of prescription opioids can easily lead to physiological dependence. Oftentimes, users transition to heroin use because of opioid dependence and the high cost of these prescriptions compared to their illegal counterpart. In the absence of the drug, users can experience a very unpleasant withdrawal syndrome which includes: severe GI distress, physical pain/body aches, muscle spasms, and incessant yawning. Because of the unpleasantness of the withdrawal syndrome and the high addiction potential of these medications, users tend to be at high risk for relapse. Many users require a hospital stay for detox and/or rehab.


Legal, prescription medications (i.e.: Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, Ativan, Librium) which are found in tablet form and are prescribed for moderate to severe anxiety and panic.
How is it taken? Benzodiazepines are typically taken by mouth whether they are being taken as prescribed or abused. These medications typically absorb and take effect quickly, so there is little incentive for user to attempt other routes of administration.
What are the short term effects? Sedation, sense of calm and well-being, can produce effects similar to alcohol (i.e.: slurred speech, impaired motor coordination). Users can experience respiratory depression or arrest when combining these medications with alcohol or opioids.
What are the long-term effects/dangers? Benzodiazepines have a very high addiction potential, with many recreational users developing a physiological dependence. There is a lengthy and unpleasant withdrawal syndrome associated with these medications which includes: mood disturbance, preoccupation with thoughts of the drug, symptoms of anxiety/panic, and possible seizures. Because of the risk for seizure, it is unsafe for users to withdraw from Benzodiazepines outside of a hospital setting.

For more information on other drugs, visit SAMHSA's National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information or call toll-free 1-800-729-6686.


On Campus:
There are several key offices you can go to on campus if you or a friend is experiencing problems with substance abuse. Seeking help is a responsible action that may involve short-term or long-term counseling. Some of the people and locations on campus are:

Health Services - (914) 633-2548
Counseling Center - (914) 633-2038
Office of Mission and Ministry - (914) 633-2772
Alcohol and Other Drug Education Services - (914) 633-2026
Office of Residential Life - (914) 633-2336
Office of Student Development - (914) 633-2360

Off Campus:

Private Physicians, Psychologists, Social Workers
Alcohol Inpatient/Outpatient Treatment Centers - call the Counseling Center for a referral
The Guidance Center - (914) 636-4440
Alcoholics Anonymous - (914) 949-1200
Social Service Agencies
Clearinghouse on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse - (800) 729-6686
St. Vincent's Hospital - Evaluation & Referral (24 hrs.) - (914) 925-5542
AA Helpline - (212) 647-1680; (914) 949-1200
Al-Anon Helpline - (914) 946-1748

Drug Free American Foundation, Inc.