Information on Health Risks
Information about the health risks associated with drug abuse and the misuse of alcohol is available from Campus Health Services. As the federal Drug Free Schools and Communities Amendments of 1989 require, included below is a description of the health risks associated with the use of illicit drugs and misuse of alcohol, a summary of applicable legal sanctions for the unlawful possession or distribution of illicit drugs and alcohol and a summary of the University’s minimum sanctions for unlawful possession, use or distribution of illicit drugs and alcohol by students or employees on University property or as a part of any University activity.
Illegal drugs and alcohol not only pose serious health risks to those who use them, but state and federal criminal penalties for possession, sale, trafficking and illegal interstate transportation also are severe. University disciplinary sanctions for the possession and sale of illegal drugs and alcohol can result in disruption or termination of University education or employment.
Alcohol slows down the heart, nervous system and brain and high doses of alcohol can cause someone to stop breathing. Prolonged immoderate use can cause artery disease, heart failure and liver damage including cancer, cirrhosis and hepatitis. Women may develop alcohol-related health problems sooner than men and from drinking less alcohol than men. Because alcohol affects nearly every organ in the body, long-term heavy drinking increases the risk for many serious health problems.
Marijuana has various risks associated with use, whether inhaled or ingested with food. Evidence indicates it can affect brain development in teens and young adults. In the short term, it causes problems with short-term memory and learning, distorts perception (sights and sounds) and causes poor coordination and decision-making. It has been known to contain more than 400 chemicals and has 2.5 times as much tar as tobacco. Because it decreases concentration and learning abilities, marijuana is particularly detrimental to students.
Research shows that marijuana users experience the same health problems as tobacco smokers, such as bronchitis, emphysema, bronchial asthma and throat and lung cancer; tend to have more chest colds than non-users; and are at greater risk of getting lung infections like pneumonia. Studies show that someone who smokes five joints per day may be taking in as many cancer-causing chemicals as someone who smokes a full pack of cigarettes every day. Other effects include increased heart rate, dryness of the mouth, reddening of the eyes and impaired motor skills. Long-term use is associated with depression, anxiety and loss of motivation.
Steroids have side effects ranging from insomnia to death. Using them increases the risk of cancer and cardiovascular, kidney and liver disease. Users may exhibit mood swings that include aggressive, combative behavior and use may cause impotence, sterility or fetal damage.
Amphetamines can cause acute psychoses and malnutrition. They also can make a user nervous, hyperactive and sleepless and can elevate pulse rate and blood pressure as well as exacerbate symptoms of anxiety.
Meth is a highly addictive drug that targets the functioning of the central nervous system. Short-term effects include increased wakefulness, increased physical activity, decreased appetite, increased respiration, rapid heartbeat, irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, hypothermia, irritability, paranoia, insomnia, confusion, tremors and aggressiveness. Long-term health effects include irreversible damage to blood vessels in the brain, stroke, severe reduction in motor skills with symptoms similar to those of Parkinson’s disease, impaired verbal learning, memory impairment and decreased ability to regulate emotions. Many of the long-term effects persist after use of the drug is discontinued.
Both physiologically and psychologically addictive, these drugs can cause death in high doses. Infants born to barbiturate users may suffer congenital deformities. Other effects include nausea, dizziness, lethargy, allergic reactions and possible breathing difficulties.
Anyone who uses cocaine – even a first-time user – may have seizures, heart fibrillation and strokes that can result in death. Habitual users experience irritability, paranoia and hallucinations. Use causes tumors, chronic fatigue, dangerous weight loss, sexual impotence and insomnia and affects respiration, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
An overdose of these psychologically and physiologically addictive drugs can cause death through suppression of central nervous systems including breathing. Heroin and opium users feel sluggish and fall asleep at inappropriate and dangerous times. Intravenous users risk contracting hepatitis, HIV and other infections.
LSD causes hallucinations, perception distortions and anxiety. Users cannot function normally and are accident-prone. LSD also can cause elevated body temperature and respiration and a rapid heartbeat.
MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly) produces both stimulant and psychedelic effects including increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, nervousness and hyperactivity. Because users may experience feelings of increased confidence, sensitivity, arousal and confusion, use of ecstasy makes them more vulnerable to crime, especially robbery, sexual assault and other unwanted sexual encounters.
Oxycodone and other narcotics are chemically similar to heroin and opium. Although they can be safe and effective treatments for pain when prescribed by a doctor and used as directed, they are psychologically and physiologically addictive and overdose and death through misuse is possible. Because of their medical uses, these drugs are frequently manufactured in a time-release (sustained-release, long-acting, extended-release) form. If users circumvent the time-release formulation, they may take a larger dose than intended, overdose and suffer serious complications or death. Combining opioids with alcohol or other drugs significantly increases the risk to life and well-being.
Psilocybin, found in certain mushrooms, causes hallucinations and perception distortions. Users cannot function normally and are accident-prone. This drug also can produce anxiety, elevated body temperature, rapid heartbeat and elevated respiration.
Ritalin (methylphenidate), Concerta and Adderall are chemically similar to amphetamines. Although they are safe and effective treatments for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder when prescribed by a doctor and used as directed, they are powerful stimulants and can be addictive. Because of their medical uses, these drugs are frequently manufactured in a time-release (sustained-release, long-acting, extended-release) form. If users circumvent the time-release formulation, they may take a larger dose than intended, overdose and suffer complications or death.