Every student has to make decisions about their substance use, and we want to help you make choices that enhance your health and wellbeing. If your use has become chronic or excessive, it may affect your academics, relationships, athletic performance, and/or mental and physical health. We can help you gain knowledge and develop skills to make good decisions about your use and to minimize risks to your wellbeing.
What is a drink? What is a BAC? How can I avoid a hangover or blacking out?
On average, a person can break down one standard drink per hour. This can vary based on a person’s sex and other factors. Alcohol is broken down by an alcohol dehydrogenase, an enzyme in the liver. The amount of alcohol that a person has in their bloodstream is their blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
The size of a standard drink depends upon the type of beverage:
Distilled spirits (vodka, whiskey, gin, tequila, etc.) = 1–1.5 oz. Wine = 4-5 oz. Malt Liquor = 8–9 oz. Beer = 12 oz.
There are many ways to avoid the negative consequences of alcohol, if you choose to drink. It’s important to remember that how alcohol impacts a person can be influenced by medication they are taking, if they are using other drugs, and a person’s menstrual cycle, among other factors. Here are some tips to avoid some of the most common negative consequences:
Avoid drinking while using other drugs or medications.
Set your limit before you start drinking and stick to it.
Eat before you start drinking. Food can slow the absorption of alcohol to your bloodstream.
Pace yourself. If you consume large amounts of alcohol in a short amount of time, you may not realize how drunk you are, and the alcohol may hit your bloodstream all at once.
Alternate alcoholic drinks with water.
The more and faster you drink, the less you will experience any pleasant effects of alcohol and the more you will feel the negative effects. This is known as the biphasic response.
BASICS check-up: Brief Alcohol Screening Intervention for College Students (BASICS) is a two-session assessment that is designed to help students significantly reduce the negative consequences of high-risk drinking. BASICS was developed at the University of Washington and is an evidence-based intervention. Students can make a BASICS appointment through Community Standards. It is a free two-session intervention that includes an intake interview, an online assessment, and second meeting where the student is provided with an individualized feedback profile that includes comparisons to campus norms, consequences, and student goals.
Detective Cara Sullivan (ACPD), our DART representative (Recovery Coaches)
Is Marijuana legal is Massachusetts? Is it safe? Can I use it on campus?
Amherst College receives federal funds. Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level. Even though Massachusetts has decriminalized marijuana, its use and possession on campus is a violation of our community standards. Students are prohibited from using marijuana even if they have a medical marijuana card.
Marijuana is the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the plant, Cannabis sativa. The plant contains delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other related compounds. Extracts can also be made from the cannabis plant. Marijuana can be consumed in many ways, including smoking a cigarette, using a water pipe, or eating edibles that contain marijuana. Marijuana can also be consumed using e-vaporizers (these are similar to e-cigarettes but burn marijuana oil at a higher temperature). There is no standard for the amount of marijuana contained in these products, so the amount of marijuana and the THC concentration can vary greatly.
Things to know:
Detectable amounts of THC can remain in the body for weeks after use.
The “high” associated with marijuana typically lasts for 1–3 hours, but if eaten the effects come on slower and can last for hours.
The effects can vary from person to person and are dependent on lots of factors including previous experience, genes, the potency of the drug, and what other substances a person may be using.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the short-term and long-term effect of using marijuana include:
Short-term effects (while using or right after using):
Learning, attention, and memory problems
Distorted perception (sights, sounds, time, touch)
Poor coordination and motor skills
Increased heart rate
Psychosis (not common)
Effects that last longer than the short term (a few days) but may not be permanent:
Learning and memory problems
Long-term effects (effects of repeated use):
Risk of marijuana addiction
Long-term learning and memory problems
Risk for chronic cough, bronchitis
Risk of schizophrenia in some people with higher genetic risk
Is vaping (using e-cigarettes) safe? Is it allowed on campus?
Electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that people use to inhale nicotine, flavoring, and other chemicals. E-cigarettes are sold under a variety of brand names and can look like a traditional cigarette, a pipe, a pen, or a USB drive. In most devices the battery is activated when the person inhales; this heats the liquid and “vaporizes” it, allowing the person to inhale it.
E-cigarettes are not allowed in any building on the Amherst campus. Using e-cigarettes of any kind is a violation of community standards.
Some things to know:
E-cigarettes contain nicotine and are subject to the same regulations as traditional cigarettes and cigars.
The nicotine is released into the bloodstream, which causes the adrenal gland to release adrenaline. This causes an increase in breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. Nicotine also increases the level of dopamine in the brain.
Nicotine is highly addictive. Some of the chemicals in e-cigarettes are rated safe to eat, but little is known about their safety when inhaled. Vapors also contain known carcinogens and toxic chemicals.