Chapter 9: Health & Wellness

Substance Abuse

College policy on drugs and alcohol

What do you know about Monroe Community College’s policy on drugs and alcohol? Verify what you know and/or learn more about drug and alcohol policies at MCC by viewing the Student Handbook and answering the following questions:

  • Can you drink on campus if you are over 21?
  • Can you smoke on campus? What about e-cigarettes/vaping?
  • Is drinking and smoking permitted in the residence halls?
  • Does it violate college policy to use drugs or alcohol off-campus and then return to campus?
  • What happens if you violate college policies about drugs and alcohol?
“There’s not a drug on Earth that can make life meaningful.” – Sarah Kane

A Brief Overview of Drugs

A drug is a chemical substance that can change how your body and mind work. Drugs of abuse are substances that people use to get high and change how they feel. They may be illegal drugs like pot, cocaine, or heroin. Or they may be legal for adults only, like alcohol and tobacco.

Medicines that treat illness can also become drugs of abuse when people take them to get high, not because they’re sick and following their doctor’s orders. People can even abuse cough or cold medicines from the store if they purposefully ignore the directions and take too much at one time.

People abuse drugs for many reasons:

  • They want to feel good. Taking a drug can feel really good for a short time. That’s why people keep taking them—to try to have those good feelings again and again. But even though someone may take more and more of a drug, the good feelings don’t last. Soon the person is taking the drug just to keep from feeling bad.
  • They want to stop feeling bad. Some people who feel very worried, afraid, or sad abuse drugs to try to stop feeling so awful. This doesn’t really help their problems and can lead to addiction, which can make them feel much worse.
  • They want to do well in school or at work. Some people who want to get good grades, get a better job, or earn more money might think drugs will give them more energy, keep them awake, or make them think faster. But it usually doesn’t work, may put their health at risk, and could lead to addiction.

Cigarettes and Tobacco

Tobacco contains nicotine, a substance that excites the parts of the brain that make you feel good. You can get addicted to nicotine just like other drugs. When you use tobacco, the nicotine quickly gives you a mild rush of pleasure and energy. But it soon wears off, which makes you want to use it some more. Sometimes, the rush of energy that comes with nicotine can make you feel nervous and edgy.

To learn more about E-cigarettes, read the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s DrugFacts: Electronic Cigarettes (e-Cigarettes). The web page includes information on how safe e-cigarettes are compared to tobacco cigarettes.

While it’s legal to use tobacco once you’re 18 or 19 years old (depending on where you live), it’s not healthy at any age.

Effects of Cigarettes and Tobacco on the Body and Brain

  • Lung diseases: Cigarette smoke causes lung cancer and painful breathing diseases like emphysema. These diseases can happen to people who smoke or to others around them who breathe in their smoke.
  • Bad breath, bad teeth, mouth cancer: Cigarettes and other kinds of tobacco stain teeth and cause bad breath. Chewing tobacco can make teeth fall out and lead to cancer of the mouth.
  • Heart and blood problems: If you smoke, you are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke (sometimes called a “brain attack”).
  • Birth defects: If a pregnant woman uses tobacco, her baby might be born too early or too small. This can cause health problems for the baby.
  • More diseases: Using cigarettes or other kinds of tobacco can lead to heart disease and many kinds of cancer.
  • Addiction: The nicotine in tobacco is what makes you addicted. For information on resources available to help you quit, check out New York State Smoker’s Quitline.


Consequences of High-risk College Drinking Chart - Deaths 1,825; Sexual Assaults 97,000; Injuries 599,000; and Assaults 696,00

Drinks like beer, malt liquor, wine, and hard liquor contain alcohol, which is the ingredient that gets people drunk. Hard liquor, such as whiskey, rum, or gin, has a higher percentage of alcohol than beer, malt liquor, or wine.

The following drink sizes contain about the same amount of alcohol:

  • 1 ½ ounces of hard liquor
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor
  • 12 ounces of beer

Effects of Alcohol on the Body and Brain

  • Brain: Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways and can affect the way the brain looks and works. These disruptions can change mood and behavior and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.
  • Heart: Drinking a lot over a long time or too much on a single occasion can damage the heart, causing problems such as stroke, high blood pressure, and arrhythmia.
  • Liver: Heavy drinking takes a toll on the liver and can lead to a variety of problems such as alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis
  • Pancreas: Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion.
  • Cancer: Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of developing certain cancers, including cancers of the mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, and breast.
  • Immune system: Drinking too much can weaken your immune system, making your body a much easier target for disease. Chronic drinkers are more likely to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who do not drink too much. Drinking a lot on a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections—even up to twenty-hour hours after getting drunk.

Drinking too much, on a single occasion or over time, can take a serious toll on your health. So how much is considered drinking too much? The following guidelines are from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Drinking Levels Defined

  • Moderate alcohol consumption: According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate drinking is up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men.
  • Binge drinking: Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men—in about 2 hours. Binge drinking has become a major health and safety issue on college campuses.
  • Heavy drinking: Heavy drinking is defined as drinking 5 or more drinks on the same occasion during 5 or more days in the past 30 days.
  • Low risk for developing an alcohol use disorder: For women, low-risk drinking is no more than 3 drinks on any single day and no more than 7 drinks per week. For men, it’s defined as no more than 4 drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week. NIAAA research shows that only about 2 in 100 people who drink within these limits have an alcohol use disorder. Even within these limits, you can have problems if you drink too quickly or have other health issues.

Certain people should avoid alcohol completely, including those who:

  • Plan to drive a vehicle or operate machinery
  • Take medications that interact with alcohol
  • Have a medical condition that alcohol can aggravate
  • Are pregnant or trying to become pregnant

Statistics on Alcohol Use Among College Students

There is a high prevalence of drinking among college students. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 54.9% of full-time college students between the ages of 18 and 22 drank alcohol in the past month, which is over 10% higher than non-college students of the same age. Risky behaviors associated with alcohol use can lead to adverse outcomes, including:

  • Physical injury and death – 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor-vehicle crashes.
  • Physical assault – 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.
  • Sexual assault – 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
  • Poor academic performance – Approximately 1 in 4 college students report academic consequences from drinking, including missing class, falling behind in class, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall.


Marijuana is a green, brown, or gray mix of dried, crumbled leaves from the marijuana plant. It can be rolled up and smoked like a cigarette (called a joint) or a cigar (called a blunt). Marijuana can also be smoked in a pipe. Sometimes people mix it in food and eat it.

Marijuana can make you feel silly, relaxed, sleepy, and happy—or nervous and scared. It may change your senses of sight, hearing, and touch. It can also make it hard to think clearly.

Effects of Marijuana on the Body and Brain

  • Memory problems: Marijuana makes it hard to remember things that just happened a few minutes ago. That makes it hard to learn in school or to pay attention to your job. A recent study showed that if people who begin regular marijuana use as a teen can lose an average of 8 IQ points and do not get them back, even if they stop using the drug.
  • Heart problems: Using marijuana makes the heartbeat fast and raises your risk of having a heart attack.
  • Coughing and breathing problems: Marijuana smokers can get some of the same coughing and breathing problems as cigarette smokers.
  • Drugged driving: Driving when you’re high on marijuana is dangerous, just like driving drunk. Your reactions to traffic signs and sounds are slower. It’s hard to pay attention to the road. And it’s even worse when you’re high on marijuana and alcohol at the same time.
  • Addiction: Although some people don’t know it, you can get addicted to marijuana after using it for a while. This is more likely to happen to people who use marijuana every day or who started using it when they were teenagers.

Other Drugs of Abuse

  • Cocaine is a white powder that can be snorted up the nose or mixed with water and injected with a needle. Cocaine can also be made into small white rocks, called crack, which is smoked in a small glass pipe. Cocaine can make a person feel full of energy, but also restless, scared, or angry.
  • Heroin is a white or brown powder or a black, sticky goo. Like cocaine, heroin can be mixed with water and injected with a needle, smoked, or snorted up the nose. Heroin causes a rush of good feelings just after it’s taken, although some people get sick. After the initial rush, people want to sleep, and their heart rate and breathing slow down. Then the drug wears off, and users may feel a strong urge to take more.
  • Methamphetamine—meth for short—is a white, bitter powder. Sometimes it’s made into a white pill or a clear or white shiny rock called crystal which is smoked in a glass pipe. Meth powder can be eaten or snorted up the nose. It can also be mixed with liquid and injected into your body with a needle. Meth at first causes a rush of good feelings, but then users feel edgy, overly excited, angry, or afraid.
  • Prescription pain medicines (OxyCotin and Vicodin, for example) relieve pain from surgery or injuries. Prescription pain medicines are legal and helpful to use when a doctor orders them to treat your medical problem, but people sometimes take these without a doctor’s prescription to get high or to try to treat themselves or their friends.

Opioid epidemic

The opioid epidemic also referred to as the opioid crisis, is the rapid rise in the use of prescription and non-prescription opioid drugs in the United States beginning in the late 1990s and continuing today. The Commissioner of Public Health writes, “In all, 29,230 people died in car accidents in 2016, while 47,055 died from a drug overdose.”

Narcan is the brand name for naloxone, a substance used to reverse the effects of opioid overdose. When someone overdoses on an opioid drug, respiratory and central nervous systems are depressed, disrupting breathing and potentially leading to death. Click here for Opioid Overdose Prevention / Naloxone Training in the Rochester area. You can also look in the MCC Tribune for information about events regarding the Opioid Crisis and Naloxone training.

Resources in the Rochester Area:

  • HOPEline – New Yorkers struggling with an addiction, or whose loved ones are struggling, can find help and hope by calling the state’s toll-free, 24-hour, 7-day-a-week HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369) or by texting HOPENY (Short Code 467369).
  • Open Access – A walk-in clinic at 835 West Main is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Walk in or call (585) 627-1777 for more information.
  • Strong Recovery – As part of Strong Memorial Hospital, Strong Recovery focuses on opioid addiction as well as simultaneous mental health and addiction issues. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call (585) 275-5400.
  • Visit to find out more about the Kitchen Table Tool Kit to help start the conversation about the warning signs of addiction and where to get help.
  • Check out the Talk2Prevent website for tools to use in talking to a young person about preventing alcohol or drug use.

Club Drugs are sometimes passed around at nightclubs and parties. Club drugs include the following:

  • Ecstasy/Molly (X, E, XTC, MDMA) is a pill that is often taken at parties and clubs. It is sometimes called the “love drug” because it makes people feel very friendly and touchy. It also raises body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure and can make you feel sad for days after its effects wear off. Click here for more information about ecstasy.
  • GHB is a liquid or powder that can make you pass out. It’s called a “date rape” drug because someone can secretly put it in your drink. This means that you can’t fight back or defend yourself while the perpetrator has sex with you without your permission.
  • Rohypnol (roofies) is a date rape pill and can also be put in a drink. It has the same effects as GHB.
  • Ketamine (K, Special K) is usually taken by mouth, snorted up the nose, or injected with a needle. It makes you feel far away from what’s going on around you and can feel scary and unpleasant.

Causes of Substance Abuse in College Students

Substance abuse is prevalent among college students and usually results in academic, physical, mental, or social problems. According to the 2019 Monitoring the Future survey, college students have the highest marijuana and illicit drug use, such as amphetamines, cocaine, hallucinogens, and MDMA. Common causes for substance abuse among college students include:

  • Peer pressure:  College is a time to try new things, meet new people, and make new memories. But, that also means there’s a higher chance of giving in to peer pressure. With the prevalence of party culture on many campuses, students are constantly surrounded by people using drugs and drinking alcohol. A student may choose to do what everyone else is doing to find a sense of belonging.
  • Social anxiety:  Socializing in a new environment can be anxiety-inducing for many students, especially for introverts. Drug and alcohol use can be seen as a way to calm nerves and loosen up but can lead to substance abuse. According to research published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), individuals with anxiety are at an increased risk of developing a substance use disorder.
  • Curiosity:  Curiosity is a common reason why college students experiment with drugs and alcohol. With the newfound freedom that many college students experience living away from home for the first time, students are more likely to try new things. Combined with peer pressure, this can lead many students to try drugs and alcohol to see what it’s like or experience something new.
  • Academic success: With the increased pressure placed on academic performance, college can be an incredibly stressful time. There’s also the stress of making new friends and balancing an active social life. Stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin are known as “study drugs” commonly used by students. Although a doctor prescribes these medications for ADHD, some students abuse them to stay up all night to study.
  • Coping with mental health issues: According to data from the Texas Medical Association, young adults with mental illness are at an increased risk of stimulants, non-prescription medication, and marijuana abuse. Mental illnesses don’t cause substance abuse, but some students use substances to cope with symptoms. These substances may help relieve symptoms in the short term but can also ultimately make symptoms worse.

Signs of drug and/or alcohol abuse

The following signs may indicate drug or alcohol abuse:

When and Where to Get Help 

Here’s a simple way to think about substance use and abuse: If your use of drugs or alcohol is interfering with your life—negatively affecting your health, work, school, relationships, or finances—it’s time to quit or seek help. People who are addicted to a substance continue to abuse it even though they know it can harm their physical or mental health, lead to accidents, or put others in danger.

If you are concerned about your drug or alcohol use, or you need help quitting, visit the student health center or talk with your college counselor. You can have confidence that the people in these offices are there to help you, and it’s their job to provide information and support.

If you suspect someone may be abusing drugs or alcohol, steps can be taken to provide support.  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services SAMHSA offers resources for peers, parents, and educators to support individuals struggling with drug and alcohol abuse.  The SAMHSA National Helpline is a free and confidential 24/7/365 hotline that provides treatment referrals and information. Support groups and inpatient or outpatient programs can also aid in addiction recovery, help identify triggers, and develop treatment plans.

Feel like you have a calling to help?

Monroe Community College offers a certificate and an A.S. degree in Addictions Counseling. Visit MCC’s Catalog to learn more about the certificate and degree.

If you need additional resources or help, the following are good places to check:

    Substance abuse scenario

    • Choose alcohol or one of the drugs discussed in this section on Substance Abuse.
    • Consider the following scenario: You suspect that one of your college friends may be abusing this drug. Your goal is to educate yourself about the signs of abuse and collect resources that you can share with your friend.
    • Visit the following website to get initial relevant information on your topic. You can research other sites as well.
    • Research additional sites to identify local resources where someone like your friend might go, or places to call, for help.
    • Write a letter to this fictional person in which you share your concerns about your friend’s behavior and offer to help. Be sure to touch on the following:
      • The type of substance
      • The behavior(s) you’ve noticed your friend engaging in that worries you and causes you to suspect a substance abuse problem
      • The source of your information, which you’re sharing with your friend. For example: “I learned about the signs of heroin abuse from this website: . . .”
      • Why you think your friend should quit using or cut down
      • Your suggestions for what your friend should do and where to seek help. Give the names and contact information for at least 3 resources/organizations you found.


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