Alcohol & Other Drugs

71% of Amherst College Students Drink 0-4 Drinks When They Party

Some Other Amherst College Statistics...
  • 20% of Amherst students identify themselves
    as non-drinkers.
  • 73% of Amherst students do not smoke
  • 70% of Amherst students report 1 or fewer
    sexual partners.
  • 10% of Amherst students living on campus, choose
    to live in Substance-Free housing

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Clear Signs Of An Alcohol/Drug Problem

Here are some clear signs of a problem. Although people often take them lightly, these signs tell us something serious is happening with a person. These signs are also indicative of a potential chemical dependency. If you see someone you care about or yourself in these descriptions, it is time to deal with the situation. Get the courage up to seek help.

Driving under the influence - even if it is just "now and then"
Blackouts - even if it is just "now and then"
Passing out - even if it is just "now and then"
  • Conflicts with friends or family while you are under the influence, or anytime about your use
  • Remarks, concern and confusion from people about your use
  • Hurting or losing people close to you because of the use of alcohol or other drugs
Use-related incidents

Neglecting academics or work:

  • Missing work, classes, deadlines or tests because of hangovers
  • Use before or instead of classes
  • Use of before, instead of, or on the job
  • Impaired job or class performance, chronic absence
Trouble with the authorities

Doing things under the influence that you would not otherwise do:

  • Feeling disgust, regret and / or humiliation
  • Embarrassment
Frequently using alone or at inappropriate times
Defensiveness about and denial of use
Protecting your supply, sneaking use; and loss of ability to predict and control when and how much you will use.

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How To Help A Friend

About two-thirds of adult Americans know someone who has a drinking problem. Helping a friend involves acting as a "mirror", helping them to "see" their behavior by reflecting it back to them. This can be done by a process called "personal intervention." Well-planned interventions are most successful.

Learn the basic facts about drug / alcohol abuse and dependency.

There are professionals on campus and in the community (see "Where to Go for Help") who are trained to work with students who have alcohol / drug concerns. They can help you to learn about alcohol / drug abuse, to deal with your own feelings of anger and frustration, and help you to devise a plan of action to confront the person you're concerned about.
Plan and rehearse what you're going to say.

A problem drinker / drug user will generally not want to discuss his or her use of alcohol and other drugs and will do everything in his or her power to try and steer you away from your point and dilute the effect of what you're going to say. If you plan what you are going to say and rehearse it beforehand, you will be more effective in your intervention and less likely to fall into the other person's traps.

Carefully choose your time and place.

  • Confront a person in the morning when he/she is hung over, because their defenses will be down and he/she will be feeling the effects of the night before
  • Don't confront the person if he/she is drunk or high
  • Don't confront the person in a populated area (like a dining hall)
  • Confront the person in a private room.

Your message should be "I care about you as a person."

At every available opportunity, communicate your concern to the person in a caring, non-judgmental manner.

  • Don't say, "You're having blackouts, and that means you're an alcoholic";

  • Do say, "I've been learning about chemical dependency, and I'm worried about your drinking / drug use";

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Drug/Alcohol Combinations & Their Effects

Depressants, Narcotics and Alcohol

When used alone, alcohol causes a reduction in the function of the central nervous system. Use of depressants and narcotics with alcohol causes additional depression, which can cause severe impairment of voluntary movements and in large enough doses, involuntary functions such as breathing.
Stimulants and Alcohol

Because the stimulant effect of this class of drugs may reverse the depression effect of alcohol on the central nervous system, these drugs may give a false sense of security. The alcohol will continue to exert its depressant effect on the brain. It can mask high levels of alcohol consumption, which may be lethal to the individual.

Marijuana and Alcohol

When used in combination with alcohol, marijuana amplifies the effect of alcohol. Marijuana combined with alcohol creates greater impairment of coordination and reaction time. In addition, the body will experience a racing up and down of heart rate and blood pressure because marijuana causes an increase and alcohol a decrease. Panic attacks are more likely to occur with the combination of these drugs.

Hallucinogens and Alcohol

Most hallucinogens act initially as stimulants and can produce elevation in body temperature, heart rate and respiration; pupil dilation and appetite depression. The depressant effects of alcohol will cause a racing up and down effect in the body. In addition, there is an increased likelihood that vomiting will occur, since nausea is common with both alcohol and hallucinogen consumption. In addition, the reality distortion caused by hallucinogens is amplified with the use of alcohol.

Inhalants and Alcohol

Inhalants and alcohol both have depressive effects. Combining substances in these two will heighten the depression of the central nervous system; potentially lethal.

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Available Resources

Personal decisions about alcohol, drugs and sex are just that: personal. It is your right and your responsibility to make decisions for yourself. Your best bet is to make informed choices and to know the consequences of your actions. Below are some resources to help education you so thaty you may make informed decisions.

Health Educators
Deb Edelman, Counseling Center
ACEMS (Amherst College Emergency Medical Service)


Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): 24-hour hotline for meetings, etc.
Narcotics Anonymous
Quitting Smoking

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If You Need to Talk to Someone

The University of Massachusetts Center for Women & Community provides confidential rape crisis counseling to men and women, 24 hours a day, at (413) 545-0800.


See the Sexual Respect and Title IX website for additional contacts and more information.