The provisions of the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act Amendment of 1989 require Amherst College, as a recipient of federal financial aid and grants and contracts, to adopt and implement programs to prevent the use, possession, or distribution of illicit drugs and unlawful use of alcohol by employees and students.  Under the Amendment, the College is required to annually communicate the provisions of the Act and related College policies regarding maintaining a drug-free workplace. Also pursuant to this amendment, we review our alcohol and other drug policies, programs, and services every two years. A copy of the biennial review is available upon request.

Health Effects

Drug addiction is a dependence on an illegal drug or a medication. When you're addicted, you may not be able to control your drug use and you may continue using the drug despite the harm it causes. The use of drugs can cause problems at work, home, school, and in relationships, leaving you feeling isolated, helpless, or ashamed.  Alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychological, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal, and is characterized by impaired control over drinking, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortion in thinking, most notably denial.

Adapted from U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration "Drugs of Abuse" and from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism "Alcohol's Effects on the Body"

Drug TypeDependencePossible EffectsEffects of OverdoseWithdrawal Syndrome
(e.g. heroin, morphine, codeine, fentanyl, methadone, oxycodone)
HighEuphoria, drowsiness, respiratory depression, constricted pupils, nausea, vomiting, inability to concentrate, apathy, slowed physical activity, constipationSlow and shallow breathing, constricted pupils, confusion, clammy skin, convulsions, extreme drowsiness, coma, possible deathWatery eyes, runny nose, yawning, loss of appetite, irritability, tremors, panic, cramps, nausea, vomiting, chills, sweating, restlessness, and severe depression
(e.g. GHB, benzodiazepines, roofies)
ModerateSlurred speech, disorientation, drunken behavior without odor of alcohol, impaired memory of events, interacts with alcohol, weakness, headache, blurred vision, slowed breathing, relieve anxiety and muscle spasms, induce sleepShallow respiration, clammy skin, dilated pupils, weak and rapid pulse, coma, possible deathAnxiety, insomnia, tremors, delirium, convulsions, psychotic thoughts, possible death
(e.g. cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine)
HighIncreased alertness, excitation, euphoria, increased pulse rate and blood pressure, insomnia, loss of appetite, hallucinations, dizziness, excessive sweatingAgitation, increased body temperature, hallucinations, convulsions, cardiovascular collapse, possible deathApathy, long periods of sleep, irritability, depression, disorientation, anxiety
(e.g. LSD, PCP, ecstasy, mushrooms, peyote)
Moderate - HighHeightened senses, teeth grinding, dehydration, illusions and hallucinations, altered perception of time and distance, elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure, dilated pupilsIncreased body temperature, electrolyte imbalance, cardiac arrest; unable direct movement, feel pain, or remember, respiratory depression, coma, convulsions, seizuresMuscle aches, drowsiness, depression, acne, flashbacks
(e.g. marijuana, hashish, hashish oil, vaping)
ModerateEuphoria, relaxed inhibitions, increased appetite, disorientation, problems with memory, enhanced sensory perception, sedation, bloodshot eyes, decreased blood pressureFatigue, paranoia, possible psychosis, nausea Insomnia, hyperactivity, decreased appetite, irritability
Anabolic Steroids
(e.g. testosterone)
UnknownVirilization, edema, testicular atrophy, gynecomastia, acne, aggressive behavior, high cholesterolUnknown -- adverse effects develop from use of steroids over timePossible depression
InhalantsLow - HighFlushing, hypotension, headache, impaired memory, slurred speech, drunken behavior, slow onset vitamin deficiency, organ damage, euphoria, dizziness, weight loss, depressionMethemoglobinemia, vomiting, respiratory depression, loss of consciousness, possible deathAgitation, trembling, anxiety, insomnia, vitamin deficiency, confusion, hallucinations, convulsions
Designer Drugs (e.g. bath salts, K2/Spice, Synthetic Opioids)HighEuphoria, alertness, confusion, acute psychosis, agitation, combativeness, aggressive, violent, and self-destructive behaviors, hypertension, hyperthermia, teeth grinding, sweating, headaches, seizures, paranoia, hallucinationsCold and clammy skin, coma, respiratory failure, possible deathLoss of appetite, agitation, irritability, tremors, panic, cramps, nausea, vomiting, chills, sweating, restlessness, severe depression
AlcoholHighImpaired memory, slurred speech, drunken behavior, slow onset vitamin deficiency, organ damage, high blood pressure, impaired coordination, cardiomyopathyVomiting, respiratory depression, loss of consciousness, stroke, possible deathTrembling, anxiety, insomnia, vitamin deficiency, confusion, hallucinations, convulsions

Resources for Help

Please visit our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) website, Company Code: Amherst College, to learn more about drug and alcohol abuse, its effects, symptoms and help to deal with the addiction.  A quick search with the keywords “alcohol” or “drugs” will provide you a list of links with information and resources, including articles, guides, videos, and more. 

The College is committed to providing a drug-free, healthy, and safe environment for all faculty and staff.  Employees who need help with substance abuse problems and co-workers/family members of substance abusers are encouraged to use the services provided by our EAP, New Directions, at 800-624-5544.  Our Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans also provide resources and benefits to help cope with substance abuse related problems, at 800-524-4010.  Additional support and assistance is available through local 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous at 413-532-2111, or Narcotics Anonymous at 866-624-3578.  All contacts with these providers and organizations are strictly confidential.

College Sanctions

The unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensation, possession, or use of a controlled substance, and the unlawful possession or use of alcoholic beverages on campus is prohibited.  If it is determined that a violation of this policy has occurred, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken and sanctions imposed.  The sanctions available to the College include warning, probation, suspension, or termination of employment or referral to government authority for prosecution.  The College may require satisfactory completion of an appropriate drug or alcohol abuse assistance or rehabilitation program before reinstatement or continued employment.

Federal, State and Local Sanctions

Legal penalties for violation of applicable local, state, or federal laws range from probation and forfeiture of property to fines and imprisonment. For example, the sanctions against an individual for distribution of, or possession with intent to distribute, controlled substances can be from a minimum of 5 years’ imprisonment to a maximum of life imprisonment, with fines up to $10 million. Sanctions can increase for repeat offenders or for offenses resulting in death or serious bodily harm and can be doubled for each of the following occurrences: distribution to persons under 21 years of age, distribution within 1,000 feet of a college or university or employing someone under 18 in the distribution. Attempt or conspiracy to commit a crime can be treated as severely as the intended offense. As of September 1, 1989, conviction for violation of any state or federal drug law can lead to ineligibility for any federal benefit (including grants and loans).

Additional details regarding sanctions under federal law.

Additional details regarding sanctions under Massachusetts law:

Please visit the Drugs and Alcohol Policy page to familiarize yourself with the College’s alcohol and drug policy.

It is important to note that any person who violates the College’s Drug and Alcohol Policy may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.  Please take the time to review the act and the College policies in the link provided, and contact the Office of Human Resources if you have questions.