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Alcohol and Controlled Substances
Vanderbilt University is deeply concerned about the health and welfare of its students. University policies and regulations in general–and alcohol and controlled substances policies in particular–reflect that concern. The purpose of University policies, and the purpose of articulating them in great detail, is to enable students to make informed–and, it is hoped, intelligent–choices, as well as to enable them to understand the consequences of making poor choices. In compliance with the federal Drug-Free Schools and Campuses regulations, Vanderbilt has adopted a policy that includes the expectation that students will comply with federal, state, and local laws, including those relating to alcoholic beverages, narcotics, and other drugs.
The University prohibits the unlawful possession, use, distribution, or facilitation of the distribution of alcohol and controlled substances by students, faculty, and staff, on its property, or as part of any University-sponsored activity. The prohibition extends to off-campus activities that are officially sponsored by Vanderbilt, its schools, departments, or organizations. In addition, the prohibition extends to off-campus professional or organizational activities, including attendance at conferences, when participation is sponsored by the University, or when the participating student, faculty member, or staff member is representing the University. Finally, the prohibition extends to “private” events off campus where the University may have an interest (e.g., if a student were to provide alcohol to underage students at an off-campus location).
In addition, the improper use of prescription drugs is a serious problem on college campuses. For this reason, it is a violation of University policy for a student to be in possession of, or use, another person’s prescription medication or for a student to distribute medications to one person that have been prescribed for another.
To underscore the seriousness with which it takes the issue of health and welfare of its constituent populations, the University will impose sanctions on students, faculty, and staff–up to and including expulsion or termination of employment, and possible referral for prosecution–for violation of the alcohol and controlled substances policy. Conditions of continued employment or enrollment may include the completion of an appropriate rehabilitation program.
In addition to the standards of conduct prohibited by law and University policy, students, faculty, and staff are subject to the additional requirements, standards, and procedures promulgated by their respective schools, departments, and organizations. Additional standards of conduct, standards, and procedures may be found elsewhere in The Student Handbook, in the Faculty Manual, and in the Medical Center Alcohol and Drug Use Policy (Policy No. 30-im08), in the Human Resources policy, and any applicable union contract. Students, faculty, and staff may refer to these documents for details.
Alcoholic Beverage and Controlled Substances Policies
The following regulations apply to the possession and/or use of alcoholic beverages or controlled substances by individual students and their guests:
- The legal drinking age in the state of Tennessee is 21 years old.
- Subject to statutory exceptions available under Tennessee law, alcoholic beverages may not be provided (served, distributed, furnished) to persons under the legal drinking age (21 years old) in the state of Tennessee.
- The use of any false identification or identification belonging to another person to purchase or procure alcohol is prohibited.
- Possession of open containers of beer or other alcoholic beverages, regardless of the type of container, in the lobbies of residences or about the campus, is prohibited, except where expressly permitted by this chapter.
- Because of the danger that drunk drivers pose to themselves and to others, the operation of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs is prohibited.
- Due to the danger that intoxicated persons pose to themselves and to others, as well as to the disruption that intoxication can bring to the living/learning community, intoxication is prohibited.
- Effecting excessive and/or harmful consumption of alcohol through games, peer pressure, subterfuge, or other activities is prohibited.
- The use of common containers of alcoholic beverages such as kegs, pony kegs, coolers, or punch bowls by undergraduates, on or off campus, is prohibited.
- The use of pure grain alcohol is prohibited.
- The use of devices, such as funnels and beer bongs, designed for the rapid consumption of alcohol is prohibited.
- Drinking games are prohibited.
- The only places on campus where students (who must be of legal drinking age) may routinely possess and consume alcoholic beverages are as follows:
- the rooms and apartments of students in upperclass residences (with the exception of substance-free floors and buildings),
- fraternity houses, and
- The Overcup Oak (beverages sold on the premises, only).
- Students may not consume alcoholic beverages elsewhere, except in common areas designated by student vote in upperclass residences in accordance with residential autonomy procedures and in other locations or at special events designated by the Dean of Students or the Dean’s designee.
- Individuals hosting an event are responsible for ensuring compliance with University policies and state and local law. If non-compliant, individuals are subject to corrective action through the University’s accountability process, and to prosecution by the state of Tennessee, and/or the Metropolitan Government of Nashville/Davidson County.
- All events hosted by individuals at which alcoholic beverages will be consumed must be appropriately registered according to the regulations set forth in this chapter. (See also “Event Registration, Space Reservation, and Event Planning” in Chapter 5, “Student Engagement.”)
- Possession, use, distribution, or facilitation of distribution of controlled substances or drug paraphernalia is prohibited. The term distribution includes “sharing” of any drug and does not require the exchange of money.
- Possession or use of prescription medication prescribed to another person and distribution or facilitation of distribution of a medication prescribed for one person to any other person are also prohibited. The term distribution includes “sharing” of any prescription drug and does not require the exchange of money.
All of the regulations outlined above apply to organizations. In addition, the following regulations also apply to the possession and/or use of alcoholic beverages or controlled substances by groups, by University departments, or by an organization’s members and invited guests:
- Alcohol may not be used as an award or trophy for any event or program of the University or by any University organization, group, or individual.
- Notices, posters, flyers, banners, etc., may not use logos or trademarks of alcoholic beverages, or mention or refer to alcoholic beverages or their availability at an event.
- “B.Y.O.B.,” as shorthand for “Bring Your Own Beverage,” may be used on postings, etc., for events that have been registered B.Y.O.B. during the event registration process. (See requirements of the registration process.)
- The beverage at B.Y.O.B. events hosted by student organizations is limited to “beer,” only, as defined by the Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 57, Chapter 5 (i.e., those alcoholic beverages that can be found in convenience and grocery stores); students and guests are prohibited from bringing liquor, wine, and other alcoholic beverages to such events. The limitation on the quantity of the authorized beverage (beer) is six (6), twelve-ounce (12oz) cans or plastic bottles per person. Glass bottles are prohibited except at those registered events where attendees are required to check their alcoholic beverages with a third party bartender responsible for distributions throughout the event. On such occasions, the beverage must be transferred to a non-breakable paper or plastic cup for consumption.
- The use of common containers of alcoholic beverages such as kegs, pony kegs, coolers (portable water coolers, ice chests, etc.), or punch bowls at any student organization sponsored event, on or off campus, to which undergraduates have been invited, or at which they are present, is prohibited.
- The use of pure grain alcohol at any student organization sponsored event, on or off campus, is prohibited.
- The use of devices–such as funnels and beer bongs–designed for the rapid consumption of alcohol at any student organization sponsored event, on or off campus, is prohibited.
- Drinking games at any student organization sponsored event, on or off campus, are prohibited.
- Officers of an organization hosting an event are responsible for ensuring compliance with University policies and state and local law. If non-compliant, organizations and associated individuals are subject to corrective action through the University’s accountability process, and to prosecution by the state of Tennessee, and/or the Metropolitan Government of Nashville/Davidson County.
- All events at which alcoholic beverages will be consumed must be appropriately registered according to the regulations set forth in this chapter. (See also “Event Registration, Space Reservation, and Event Planning” in Chapter 5, “Student Engagement.”)
- Fundraising events—or “bar nights”—in “limited service restaurants” (bars)—as defined by Tennessee statutes—or at any location where money is collected at the door, or through any other arrangement, with an establishment involving financial transactions that circumvent the University’s accounting system, are prohibited.
Immunity for Seeking Emergency Treatment
It is in the best interest of students’ welfare that persons who overdose or become intoxicated be brought to the attention of medical personnel. For that reason, it is University policy that a student seeking medical attention for intoxication or overdose will be eligible for immunity for the simple illegal use or underage possession of alcohol or other drugs and the resulting overdose or intoxication, provided that the sole reason the student’s intoxication or overdose was discovered by University officials was through the seeking of medical care (by the affected student or by others).
Immunity for alcohol violations extends to individuals seeking help for the intoxicated student. Students granted immunity will be required to complete a course of evaluation, counseling and, where indicated, treatment. Failure to complete the prescribed course and/or treatment can result in the revocation of immunity.
Seeking emergency treatment for one who has overdosed or become intoxicated does not relieve a group or organization of responsibility for a violation of policy, such as providing alcohol to an underage person resulting in the intoxication for which emergency treatment is sought. However, the fact that an organization sought help for an intoxicated student will be considered favorably in determining any sanction for policy violations.
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Harm Reduction – BASICS
Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS) is a process for providing helpful information to students about their use of alcohol and other drugs. Following a “harm-reduction” approach, the program seeks to motivate students to reduce the risk of adverse consequences from use of alcohol and other drugs. After completing an extensive assessment instrument, students go to the Psychological and Counseling Center (PCC) for an individual meeting with a trained counselor who reviews the results with them and provides additional information about reducing their risk. If there is substantial risk of further substance-related or mental health problems, referral is made for the appropriate services at PCC.
There are several campus resources for students or campus professionals who want to learn more about talking to students about alcohol and other drugs:
- Alcohol/Other Drug Team or Outreach Coordinator at the Psychological and Counseling Center 615-32(2-2571)
- Student Health and Wellness 615-32(2-0480)
- Office of Wellness Programs and Alcohol Education 615-34(3-4740)
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Event Policies for Graduate and Professional Students and Organizations
Graduate and professional students and organizations must register their events with the office of the relevant school’s dean. In certain cases, as when an event is to take place on a campus lawn, once the dean’s office approval has been secured, the event must also be registered with the Office of Registration and Events, and, if alcoholic beverages are to be present, authorized by the Special Events Registration Committee. The stipulations of event management below may be superseded by additional requirements of facilities management when an event occurs at a location other than the relevant school.
If an undergraduate student organization cosponsors an event with a graduate or professional student organization, or if undergraduates are invited or present at an event, the policies governing undergraduate events must be followed. In addition, graduate or professional student organizations and their officers are subject to corrective action through the University’s student accountability process if there are violations of the underage drinking law or University policies and regulations at their events.
- Events, including those for which off-campus facilities are arranged, must be registered with the relevant dean’s office, as above.
- If alcohol is among the beverages available, the organizers of the event must meet the following requirements:
- On an annual basis, complete “Host Responsibility Training,” provided by the Office of Wellness Programs & Alcohol Education, prior to the first event of the year 615-34(3-4740).
- Provide alternative beverages and food during the entire period that alcoholic beverages are available. Students organizing the event are responsible for providing both nonalcoholic beverages and food.
- Ensure that students serving alcoholic beverages have successfully completed “Host Responsibility Training” as delineated above. (The practice of “self-serve” is prohibited.)
- Comply with the appropriate dean’s office standards that effect the engaging of security officers or third-party bartenders (e.g., an event with a band or DJ, or guests invited from outside the Vanderbilt community, might require security, but it is unlikely that a wine and cheese reception for a visiting scholar would).
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Event Policies for Undergraduate Students and Organizations
For special events, a space may be designated as a place where the possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages by those of legal drinking age is permitted. However, such occasions must be registered, approved, and advertised five days in advance as an event at which alcohol may be consumed. Sponsoring organizations may arrange for the provision in two ways.
- They may register the event as “B.Y.O.B” (“bring your own beverage”).
- With the authorization of the Dean of Students or the Dean’s designee, they may arrange for licensed vendors to sell distilled spirits and wine. (Beer is generally excluded because statutes prohibit the sale of beer within certain distances of buildings whose purpose is considered educational in nature.)
- Events (on campus or off) at which alcohol will be available must be registered and arrangements approved by the Special Events Registration Committee at least four weeks in advance of the event. Fundraising events—or “bar nights”—in “limited service restaurants” (bars)—as defined by Tennessee statutes—or at any location where money is collected at the door, or through any other arrangement, with an establishment involving financial transactions that circumvent the University’s accounting system, are prohibited.
- On an annual basis, organizers of events at which alcohol will be available must attend Host Responsibility Training, provided by the Office of Wellness Programs & Alcohol Education, prior to its first event of the year 615-34(3-4740).
- Fraternity and sorority events must be registered with the Office of Greek Life, and must comply with the alcohol policies of the pertinent Greek governing body as well as the University.
- Events of religious organizations or affiliated ministries, which employ exceptions to state law regarding the age requirement for consumption of alcohol, must be registered with the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life.
- Security must be provided at all events at which alcohol will be consumed. Security arrangements for an event must be reviewed and approved by the Special Events Registration Committee in advance of the event.
- Undergraduate organizations, groups, individuals, students, faculty, and staff may not serve alcoholic beverages to undergraduate students, except by special authorization from the Dean of Students or the Dean’s designee.
- The sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited with the exception of occasions for which the Special Events Registration Committee has approved the engagement of a licensed vendor. This prohibition includes the sale of tickets that can be traded for alcoholic beverages, or the sale of t-shirts required for entry into an event where alcohol is distributed, or any scheme masking the distribution of alcohol. (See “Events that Include the Sale of Alcohol.”)
- Any time alcoholic beverages are served or permitted, alternative beverages and food must also be provided during the entire period that alcoholic beverages are available. Students organizing the event are responsible for providing nonalcoholic beverages and food.
- Individuals who wish to invite guests to a gathering in their apartments, suites, or lodges must have authorization from the Area Coordinator for the residential area, or the AC’s designee. The authorization forms for these events may be found on the respective Anchor Link pages of the residences in which such gatherings are permitted: Carmichael Towers East suites, Carmichael Towers West, Chaffin Place, Lewis House, Morgan House, and Mayfield Apartments. For the event to be authorized, a majority of the hosts must be of legal age to drink alcoholic beverages. (See “Party Registration” in Chapter 4, “Residential Life.”)
- In keeping with the University’s policy prohibiting student organizations from making contractual commitments (whether formal, understood, or implied), student organizations may not hold events at off-campus locations without the express approval of the appropriate adviser and the completion of appropriate contractual documents approved by the Dean of Students or the Dean’s designee. A number of registered student organizations with oversight from their national organizations have secured exceptions from the Dean of Students to this approval process.
- Undergraduate students who have reached the legal drinking age in the state of Tennessee (21 years old) may possess and consume alcoholic beverages at events registered and approved for consumption on a “bring-your-own” basis. B.Y.O.B. practices contemplate that an individual student of drinking age may share alcoholic beverages with a date or a companion who is also of legal drinking age. However, any subterfuge or device to evade the spirit of the University policy prohibiting the use of common containers by undergraduates or the provision of alcoholic beverages at undergraduate functions, will subject both students and organizations to corrective action.
- Policies of the student centers prohibit B.Y.O.B. events. (See “Events that Include Sales of Alcohol” for alternative arrangements.)
- The beverage at B.Y.O.B. events hosted by registered student organizations is limited to “beer,” only, as defined by the Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 57, Chapter 5 (i.e., those alcoholic beverages that can be found in convenience and grocery stores); students and guests are prohibited from bringing liquor, wine, and other alcoholic beverages to such events. The limitation of authorized beverage (beer) is six (6), twelve-ounce (12oz) cans or plastic bottles per person. Glass bottles are prohibited except at those registered events where attendees are required to check their alcoholic beverages with a third-party bartender responsible for distribution throughout the event. On such occasions, the beverage must be transferred to a non-breakable paper or plastic cup for consumption.
- Arrangements must be made for a third-party vender to sell alcohol.
- Staff of the student centers will assist student organizers of events in obtaining third-party vendors.
- The arrangements with the vendor must be reviewed by the Special Events Registration Committee and approved by the Dean of Students or the Dean’s designee. Only the Dean of Students or the Dean’s designee may sign a contract with a vendor for the sale of alcohol.
- Student organizations or other event sponsors are prohibited from obtaining alcohol for resale by the vendor.
- Student organizations or other event sponsors are prohibited from receiving proceeds from the sale of alcohol.
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The purpose of any sanction and accompanying accountability action plan for a violation of University policy is to educate and prompt reflection on the part of the student or student organization, effect voluntary compliance with the policy, and ensure the safety and well-being of members of the University community.
Vanderbilt University will impose sanctions on students or student organizations, ranging from an educational conference or deferred probation to disciplinary probation, suspension, or expulsion, and may also make referral for state or federal prosecution, for violation of its alcohol and controlled substances policy. With the exception of expulsion, sanctions may be accompanied by an accountability action plan. As is the case with violations of other University policies, sanctions imposed will be appropriate to the severity and circumstances of the violation. The student or organization’s previous record, honesty and cooperation, and the seriousness of the offense will be taken into account in the determination of sanction.
University Sanctions for Students
The minimum sanction for simple purchase, possession, or consumption of alcohol in violation of University policy is an educational conference for the first offense. The completion of an appropriate assessment will also be required.
The presumptive sanction for first-offense intoxication is disciplinary probation. Standard indicators of drinking to the level of intoxication may include lack of balance, loss of coordination, confusion, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, odor of intoxicant, etc.
The minimum sanction for driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs is disciplinary probation and loss of campus driving and parking privileges.
Unlawful provision, distribution, or sale of alcohol by a student in violation of University policy will result in serious disciplinary action, which may include suspension or expulsion for the first offense, and may also result in criminal prosecution. The presumptive sanction for a student who illegally distributes alcohol to an underage student will be disciplinary probation for the first offense. Persons who unlawfully furnish alcoholic beverages to students who are not of legal drinking age may also be held responsible for personal injuries or property damages resulting from misconduct committed by underage, intoxicated students.
Distribution or facilitation of distribution of illegal drugs (including unlawful distribution of prescription medication) may result in suspension or expulsion for a first offense; unlawful distribution includes incidents in which no money is exchanged. In addition, the possession of controlled substances or alcohol in such quantities as to create a presumption of possession with the intent to distribute on or off campus is a serious violation that may result in immediate suspension or expulsion. Evidence that a student has distributed drugs is grounds for interim suspension from the University and/or expulsion from University housing pending the findings of accountability proceedings. Students found to have distributed drugs to others may also be held responsible for personal injuries or property damages resulting from misconduct committed by the students under the influence of the distributed substances.
The presumptive sanction for a third violation of alcohol or controlled substances policies is suspension.
Violations involving behavior that injures persons, that damages property, or that injures or damages the community at-large, will increase the presumptive strength of the sanction given.
In addition, sanctions will be imposed for misconduct that results from the use of alcoholic beverages or other drugs. Students will also be held responsible for any damages that result from their misconduct. These sanctions will be imposed consistent with standards and procedures found in Chapter 3, “Student Accountability.”
University Sanctions for Organizations
The minimum sanction for a violation of event registration or management policies by a student organization is an educational conference for the first offense.
The presumptive sanction for student organizations that provide alcohol to those not of legal drinking age, whether through direct purchase or other group activities, is probation, during which time the organization will not be permitted to host or participate in any events, on or off campus, where alcohol is present.
Student organizations that unlawfully furnish alcoholic beverages to students who are not of legal drinking age, may also be held responsible for personal injuries or property damages resulting from misconduct committed by underage, intoxicated students.
In addition, sanctions will be imposed for misconduct that results from the provision or use of alcoholic beverages or other drugs. Student organizations will also be held responsible for any damages that result from their misconduct. These sanctions will be imposed consistent with standards and procedures found in Chapter 3, “Student Accountability.”
Accountability Action Plans
With the exception of expulsion, sanctions may be accompanied by an accountability action plan to help students and organizations understand the potential consequences of policy violations and improve decision-making.
Accountability action plans for violations of alcohol and controlled substances policies may include one or more of the following components:
- evaluation through BASICS or by an alcohol and drug counselor at the Psychological and Counseling Center, and treatment or enrollment in a counseling program when indicated by the results of the evaluation,
- required attendance at alcohol or drug education seminars,
- implementation of an alcohol or drug educational program for peers,
- work service (such details might include picking up litter from campus lawns, cleaning lobbies, restrooms, and stairwells, of campus residences, etc.),
- completion of educational programs or on-line tutorials,
- drug testing,
- research or reflection essays,
- restitution, or
- letters of apology.
State of Tennessee Sanctions
[This document contains a summary of state and federal sanctions for the unlawful use of controlled substances and alcohol. Portions of the summary were provided by the federal government, and while the summary is a good faith effort to provide information, Vanderbilt does not guarantee its accuracy.] Under state law, it is unlawful for any person under the age of twenty-one (21) to buy, possess, transport (unless in the course of their employment and over the age of 18), or consume alcoholic beverages, including wine or beer. It is also unlawful for any adult to buy alcoholic beverages for or furnish them for any purpose to anyone under twenty-one years of age. These offenses are classified Class A Misdemeanors punishable by imprisonment for not more than eleven months and twenty-nine days, or a fine of not more than $2,500, or both. (T.C.A. §§ 1-3-113, 39-15-404, 57-5-301.) The offense of public intoxication is a Class C Misdemeanor punishable by 11 hours of community service, possible revocation of driver’s license, imprisonment of not more than thirty days or a fine of not more than $50, or both. (T.C.A. § 39-17-310.) Under Tennessee law, the offense of possession or casual exchange of a controlled substance (such as marijuana) is punishable as a Class A Misdemeanor (eleven months twenty-nine days and/or a fine of $2,500). For the third and subsequent offense of possession of 1/2 oz. or less of marijuana, punishment is one to six years of imprisonment and a $3,000 fine. If there is an exchange from a person over twenty-one years of age to a person under twenty-one, and the older person is at least two years older than the younger, and the older person knows that the younger is under twenty-one years of age, then the offense is classified as a felony. Possession of more than 1/2 oz. of marijuana under circumstances where intent to resell may be implicit is punishable by one to six years of imprisonment and a $5,000 fine for the first offense. (T.C.A. §§ 39-17-417, 39-17-418; 21 U.S.C. § 801, et seq.)
State penalties for possession of substantial quantities of a controlled substance or for manufacturing or distribution range up to a maximum of fifteen to sixty years of imprisonment and a $500,000 fine. (Title 39, T.C.A., Chapter 17.) For example, possession of more than twenty-six grams of cocaine is punishable by eight to thirty years of imprisonment and a $200,000 fine for the first offense.
The state may, under certain circumstances, impound a vehicle used to transport or conceal controlled substances.
United States Penalties and Sanctions for Illegal Possession of a Controlled Substance
21 U.S.C. 844(a)
First conviction: Up to one year imprisonment and fine of at least $1,000.
After one prior drug conviction: At least fifteen days in prison, not to exceed two years, and fine of at least $2,500.
After two or more prior drug convictions: At least ninety days in prison, not to exceed three years, and fine of at least $5,000.
21 U.S.C. §§ 853(a)(2) and 881(a)(7)
Forfeiture of personal and real property used to possess or to facilitate possession of a controlled substance if that offense is punishable by more than one year imprisonment.
21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(4)
Forfeiture of vehicles, boats, aircraft, or any other conveyance used to transport or conceal a controlled substance. [An automobile may be impounded in cases involving any controlled substance in any amount.]
21 U.S.C. § 844a
Any individual who knowingly possesses a controlled substance in a personal use amount shall be liable to the United States for a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed $10,000 for each such violation.
21 U.S.C. § 862
Denial of federal benefits, such as student loans, grants, contracts, and professional and commercial licenses, up to one year for first offense, up to five years for second and subsequent offenses.
18 U.S.C. 922(g)
Ineligibility to receive or purchase a firearm or ammunition.
Revocation of certain federal licenses and benefits, e.g., pilot licenses, public housing tenancy, are vested within the authorities of individual federal agencies. Violations of federal trafficking laws that involve either (1) distribution or possession of controlled substances at or near a school or University campus, or (2) distribution of controlled substances to persons under twenty-one (21) years of age, incur doubled penalties under federal law. (See chart: Federal Trafficking Penalties.)
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As an educational institution, Vanderbilt University is primarily concerned with helping the individual student achieve academic goals and develop as a person. When health problems do arise, the University may assist and guide a student whose mental or physical health is threatened. Because of the health hazards associated with binge drinking and other forms of alcohol abuse, students who choose to drink alcohol should imbibe only in moderation. Should students or their friends have a problem with alcohol or other drugs, there are several places on campus where they can receive assistance:
- The Resident Adviser (RA), Head Resident, or Residence Life professional is available to listen to students with such problems and make a referral if necessary.
- The Office of Student Health & Wellness and the Office of Wellness Programs & Alcohol Education can provide information, resources, and referrals.
- The Psychological and Counseling Center has a team of alcohol and other drug specialists available for assessment and treatment.
- The Student Health Center has professionals who can assist in identifying appropriate resources.
- Students may wish to talk to someone in the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life.
- The Vanderbilt Institute for Treatment of Addiction (VITA) offers specialized treatment programs.
These campus and community resources are available and ready to assist. Calls will be handled in a confidential manner.
- Your Resident Adviser and Head Resident
- Your Associate Director and Area Coordinator
- Your Dean
- Your own physician/psychiatrist/psychologist
- Office of Student Health & Wellness 615-32(2-0480)
- Office of Wellness Programs & Alcohol Education 615-34(3-4740)
- Student Health Center 615-32(2-2427)
- Psychological and Counseling Center 615-32(2-2571)
- Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life 615-32(2-2457)
- Office of Housing and Residential Education 615-32(2-2591)
- International Student and Scholar Services 615-32(2-2753)
- Emergency Room (VUH) 615-32(2-3391)
- VITA (Vanderbilt Institute for Treatment of Addiction) 615-93(6-3555)
- AA (call Friendship House, 202 23rd Avenue North, telephone 615-327-3909, for meeting times)
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The following is a summary of known health risks associated with the use of illicit drugs and the abuse of alcohol.
A general concern for all substances that alter self control or level of awareness is the risk of exposure to physical risks such as sexually transmitted infections, sexual assault, and dangerous decision making such as choosing to drive while under the influence.
Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Acute: Alcohol consumption causes a number of marked changes in behavior. Even low doses significantly impair the judgment and coordination required to drive a car safely, increasing the risk that the driver will be involved in an accident. Motor vehicle and other types of accidents are the leading cause of death among individuals aged fifteen to twenty-four years. Most are related to drinking and driving. Poor decisions and aggressive acts such as sexual assault are almost always associated with alcohol use. Studies suggest that low to moderate levels of alcohol also increase the incidence of a variety of aggressive acts, including spouse and child abuse. Moderate to high doses of alcohol cause marked impairments in higher mental functions, severely altering a person’s ability to problem solve, to process information and to remember information. Very high doses cause respiratory depression and death. If combined with other depressants of the central nervous system such as benzodiazepines, much lower doses of alcohol will produce the effects just described.
Chronic: Repeated, long-term use of alcohol can lead to physical dependence. Sudden cessation of alcohol intake in chronic users is likely to produce withdrawal symptoms, including severe anxiety, tremors, hallucinations, and seizures. Alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening. Long-term consumption of large quantities of alcohol, particularly when combined with poor nutrition, can also lead to permanent damage to vital organs such as the brain and the liver. Some studies suggest that brain cells are actually permanently lost (killed) by high levels of alcohol.
Women who drink alcohol during pregnancy may give birth to infants with fetal alcohol syndrome. These infants may have abnormalities such as deficits in impulse control, and impaired concentrating, affecting academic performance, and be at risk for irreversible physical abnormalities and mental retardation. In addition, research indicates that children of alcoholic parents are at greater risk than other youngsters of becoming alcoholics.
Effects of Other Drugs
The National Institute on Drug Abuse website features a page on the health effects of a number of drugs. To assist the public in keeping current on drug related issues, the NIDA website also features a page on emerging drugs.
Illegal (Non-prescribed) Drugs:
Marijuana: Marijuana and related compounds are usually used for their “relaxation” effects or to produce an altered sense of reality, a “high.” In higher doses, marijuana can increase anxiety due to interaction with brain receptors for cannabis. Marijuana is usually smoked, and like tobacco, it is very toxic to the lungs. There is evidence that early use of marijuana puts the user at increased risk for development of major psychiatric disorders that may include psychosis, altering the lives of individuals significantly. This is a risk that cannot be predicted in advance for individual brains. Chronic use may negatively affect motivation to learn, or to engage in usual activities. Disorders of memory (loss) and of mood often occur in chronic users.
Herbal Incense, Chaos, and Spice (Synthetic Cannabis/Marijuana-like): These products can be dangerous and produce a psychotic-like reaction with hallucinations.
Cocaine (stimulant): Cocaine, crack, and related forms are usually used for stimulation and to produce a sense of euphoria. All forms of cocaine are highly addictive, producing a habit that is extremely difficult to stop. In some individuals, cocaine may produce fatal cardiac rhythm disturbances. Cocaine use affects the dopamine system of the brain and can lead to severe mood dysregulation and at times psychotic level of thinking. This can result in dangerous behavior leading to safety risks for both the user and others in the environment. Chronic cocaine use negatively affects concentration and memory.
Amphetamines (stimulants): Amphetamines, and their new derivatives “crystal,” “ice,” and Ecstasy, are used for stimulation. These compounds are very addictive and may produce psychotic and violent behaviors.
- Ecstasy and “Molly” (possibly a purer form of ecstasy) or MDMA is a drug of the phenethylamine and amphetamine class. Both drugs are used to induce euphoria, diminish anxiety and possibly increase a sense of intimacy. These drugs can cause fatal cardiac arrhythmias, or lead to severe mood dysregulation and psychosis.
- Bath salts (Purple Wave, Vanilla Sky, or Bliss): These synthetic powder products contain various amphetamine-like chemicals. Many side effects have been reported varying from agitation, high blood pressure, increased pulse, chest pain, to hallucinations and suicide.
LSD and PCP (hallucinogens): These chemicals are used to produce “altered states” to escape reality. In changing perceptions, these drugs can result in very poor decision making which can lead to accident or death. They can cause psychosis in some individuals. PCP is notable for the effects on mood, potentially leading to severe agitation and aggression. Individuals with a PCP psychosis can be aggressive and full of rage, increasing risk of danger both to the individual and those in the environment. The negative effects of PCP may continue after the drug is out of the system.
Heroin (narcotics): These are among some of the most addictive substances known. They produce a high or euphoria. Withdrawal can produce seizures or even coma. Overdose is common and can result in death. Needle-drug users are in a high-risk group for infection with human immunodeficiency virus, the precursor of AIDS.
Many medications and prescribed drugs have the potential for abuse. Those listed below are some of the most abused, addictive and dangerous.
- Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin, etc. are stimulants and controlled by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). These drugs are often prescribed for students who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or ADHD. They are, however, used by some individuals who have do not have ADHD to increase alertness or recreationally for a “high.” Studies do not show improved academic performance when these stimulants are taken by students without ADHD. The risk from misuse of these drugs ranges from lack of sleep and weight loss to the more severe risk of psychosis with severely disorganized thinking. Individuals who develop psychosis have very poor insight and judgment and so continue to use the drugs in excess. For individuals abusing these stimulants, abrupt withdrawal may lead to significant mood changes including severe depression with a risk of self harm.
- Codeine, Hydrocodone (Lortab and Vicodin), and Oxycodone (Percocet and OxyContin) are medications that are prescribed for severe pain. All these drugs can be addictive and may be abused for feeling anxious, sedation, falling asleep or to get a “buzz” or “high.” Addiction to pain medications is common and withdrawal can be very difficult to manage.
- Xanax, Valium, and other benzodiazepine drugs are prescribed for acute anxiety and panic attacks. Use of all benzodiazepine compounds can lead to psychological and physiological dependence. Symptoms associated with withdrawal from these drugs can be severe and include seizures. Barbiturates are also sedative medications that can be addictive. Barbiturates are no longer commonly prescribed, but are potentially addictive. As with all sedatives, withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous and severe. Combination of these drugs with other central nervous system depressants can be dangerous.
How can you help prevent prescription drug abuse?
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist about your medication, especially if you are unsure about its effects.
- Keep your doctor informed about all medications you are taking, including over-the-counter medications.
- Read the information your pharmacist provides before starting to take medications.
- Take your medication(s) as prescribed.
- Keep all prescription medications secured at all times and properly dispose of any unused medications.
- Do not share your medications with others, or consume medications prescribed for others.
If you have concerns or questions regarding the use and/or abuse of these prescription medications or others, ask for professional advice.
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Warning Signs of Possible Substance Abuse
- Withdrawal from social situations
- Increased boredom or drowsiness
- Change in personal appearance (increasingly unkempt or sloppy)
- Change in friends
- Easily discouraged; defeatist attitude
- Low frustration tolerance (outbursts)
- Violent behavior and vandalism
- Terse replies to questions or conversation
- Sad or forlorn expression
- Poor classroom attendance
- Dropping grades or poor work
- Apathy or loss of interest
- Change in sleep pattern ranging from excessive sleep to inability to sleep
- Frequent excuses for absences from planned activities
When such signs appear in friends,
- Express your concern and caring
- Be ready to listen
- Communicate your desire to help
- Make concrete suggestions as to where the student can find help or how he or she might cope with a given problem
- Try to get the student to seek professional help
- Ask for assistance from campus resources
- Be persistent
- Understand the definition of friendship to include making difficult decisions that may anger your friends
- Take the situation lightly or as a joke
- Be offended if the student tries to “put you off”
- Take “I don’t have a problem” as an answer
- Try to handle the student alone-ask for assistance
- Lecture about right and wrong
- Promote guilt feelings about grades or anything else
- Gossip: speak of it only to those who can help
- Excuse behavior because “everybody does it”
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