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Other Drugs

Information for college students about drugs other than alcohol.

Cannabis

Cannabis Sativa has been used medicinally since at least 2900 BC. Other cultivars have been developed but they are chemically identical.

New York State recently passed legislation allowing recreational cannabis use for people over age 21, but the federal government still defines it as a Schedule I narcotic, which means it is not allowed in any form on the SUNY Geneseo campus.

New York State cannabis laws

Individual Possession

  • Up to 3 ounces of weed, up to 24 grams of concentrate.
  • May grow up to six plants for personal use.
  • Under 21: Civil penalty, fine not more than $50

Unlawful Possession

  • More than 3 oz. or 24 gm. concentrate = Fine of up to $125
  • More than 16 oz or 5 oz. concentrate = Class A Misdemeanor
  • More than 5 lb. or 2 lb. concentrate = Class E Felony
  • More than 10 lb or 4 lb. concentrate – Class D Felony

Criminal Sale

  • Violation through Class C Felony, depending on amount

Note: Smoking/vaping cannabis is prohibited wherever smoking/vaping nicotine is not allowed. Cannabis use/possession is not allowed if you’re under 21

Health effects of cannabis

The original cannabis plant contains approximately 2-3% delta-THC (the primary mild-altering component that gets you "high").

Today’s plant varieties can contain 10-30 times that amount. High levels of THC can cause anxiety and panic-like symptoms.

The other main ingredient is cannabidiol (CBD), which is not psychoactive and has a calming effect. Typically, plants that are high in THC are low in CBC, and vice versa.

Brain & Memory

  • Heavy use can change how your brain builds connections and alter perception, mood and memory. Full brain development occurs at age 25-26, so there are greater risks to using if you are younger.
  • Cannabis use can reduce memory and learning functions if you use before brain development is complete.
  • For example, someone may use cannabis to cope with feeling sad or anxious; in doing so, they risk compromising the brain processes that would otherwise help that individual develop natural coping mechanisms during brain development.

Mental Health

  • Higher levels of THC can cause panic-like symptoms including increased heart rate, nausea/vomiting, paranoia, confusion, sweating, and more. This is more likely to happen if you use edibles or other concentrated forms of cannabis.
  • If you have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, or a family history of these, you should refrain from using as THC can trigger psychosis (hallucinations).
  • Prolonged regular use, particularly if you started before age 14, may lead to cannabis use disorder (dependence).

Physical Health

  • Heavy use may lead to Cannabinoid Hyperemesis, characterized by chronic nausea and vomiting, which is only relieved by hot showers or baths. Please see your medical provider if you experience this.
  • Cannabis use can affect your respiratory health (smoked) and your immune response.
  • The National Safety Council: "It is unsafe to operate a vehicle or other complex equipment while under the influence of cannabis, due to the increased risk of death or injury to the operator or the public."

Potential concerns related to cannabis

Dependence

About 9% of people who try cannabis are likely to become dependent. If you use before age 18 the rate of dependence is about 17% or 1 in 6.

Academics

Studies suggest that heavy and/or regular use can impair academic outcomes among college students, leading to a lower GPA and a longer time to graduate. If you choose to use, be familiar with casual vs. high-risk use to best avoid negative outcomes.

Casual use
  • Infrequent (less than weekly)
  • Experimental (generally in social settings)
  • Minimal consequences (does not impact social life or academics)
High-risk use
  • Frequent use (more than once a week)
  • Use negatively impacts academics (you skip classes or procrastinate on your work)
  • Using to mask anxiety or emotional struggles
  • Using alone
  • Using to help sleep (high use will cause suppress REM actually lead to less restful sleep)
Check yourself

Wonder if your use is problematic? Take this confidential screening and receive a personalized profile.

Want to take a break and reset your tolerance level? Use the University of Vermont’s free online T-Break Guide or pick up a copy of the T-Break Guide at Student Health and Counseling.

For a confidential consultation, contact the AOD Program Coordinator (covell@geneseo.edu) to schedule an appointment.

cannabis plant
pharmacist

Stimulants

Stimulants are prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy. These medications, which include Adderall, Concerta, and Ritalin speed up brain activity causing increased alertness, attention, and energy. Symptoms of misuse or overdose include hyperactivity, shakiness, sweating, dilated pupils, fast or irregular heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, elevated body temperature, seizures, paranoia/nervousnous, repetitive behaviors, loss of appetite or sudden/unexplained weight loss.

Sedatives/Depressants

Sedatives/depressants are prescribed to treat anxiety, panic attacks, and sleep disorders. These medications (for example, Valium, Xanax, and Ambien) slow down the brain and central nervous system. Symptoms of misuse or overdose include loss of coordination, respiratory depression, slowed reflexes, slurred speech, fatigue, and coma.

Mixing Medications

Do you know what happens when you mix different medications, with or without alcohol? Depending on the substance, it can be very dangerous or even deadly. Download a printable Drug Interactions sheet or contact covell@geneseo.edu for a full-size poster to hang in your residence.

Opioids

Opioids like Vicodin, OxyContin, Codeine, Fentanyl, and Percocet are prescribed to treat moderate-to-severe pain. These medications block pain messages from reaching the brain and can give someone a feeling of euphoria.

So why are opioids so concerning?

Opioids are powerful drugs that have a higher risk of causing dependency, often before user might realize; this dependency can transition into addiction very quickly so it’s important to seek intervention early on. Opioid users can also develop tolerance very quickly (even within a few doses), needing higher or more frequent doses to feel the same effect.

Misuse of prescription opioids may serve as a gateway to illicit heroin use. Symptoms of misuse or overdose include sleep deprivation, fatigue, or “nodding;” nausea, vomiting, constipation; slow breathing, slurred speech, fading in and out of consciousness; “pinpoint” constricted pupils, watery or droopy eyes; slow gait; dry skin, itching, skin infections; constant flu-like symptoms; bruises around injection sites.

If you suspect someone is overdosing on any of the above, get help immediately! Call 911 and stay with the person. Remember to tell the first responder that this is a “Good Samaritan” call.

Contact the AOD Program office (covell@geneseo.edu) to learn how you can get the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan (naloxone) for your residence.

Cocaine

Cocaine is an illegal stimulant that increases alertness, feelings of euphoria, energy and motor activity. Cocaine is extremely addictive and very physically harmful to the body. Powdered cocaine is often diluted with other white powders, including the opioid painkiller Fentanyl, which can easily lead to overdose and death.

Immediate effects of cocaine

The “high” can last from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the type and method of administration. Some negative effects of cocaine use include the following:

  • Paranoia, anxiety, and hallucinations.
  • Muscle spasms and convulsions.
  • Heart attacks and strokes from cocaine use can lead to sudden death.

Long-term effects of cocaine

Sustained cocaine use can result in depression and heavy users may develop suicidal thoughts. Chronic snorting or sniffing of cocaine can cause degradation of the cartilage separating the nostrils and eventually can cause the complete disappearance of the division.

Other long-term effects include:

  • Irreversible damage to blood vessels in brain and heart.
  • Liver, kidney, and lung damage.
  • Sexual dysfunction.
  • Delirium or psychosis.

For more information see this cocaine overview.

Ecstasy (MDMA)

Ecstasy (MDMA) is a psychoactive drug that works as a stimulant as well as a hallucinogen. Often, MDMA tablets include a combination of other drugs, including but not limited to GHB, methamphetamine, ketamine, and cocaine. Due to its illegal and unregulated status, it is almost impossible for a user to know the purity of the substance, and there are many concerns with toxicity of the chemicals in the pill.

Immediate effects of ecstasy

MDMA affects serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine activity. Typically, the major effects last for about 3-6 hours, depending on the dose. The effects include euphoria, fixation on sights/sounds, and diminished anxiety from an increase of the hormones involved in love, trust, and arousal. It takes about 14 days after use of MDMA for depleted levels of serotonin to return to normal.

Some other negative side effects of MDMA use include:

  • Impaired attention, drive, and motivation
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Chills or sweating
  • Muscle tension and teeth clenching
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Exhaustion
  • Dehydration
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Long-lasting confusion and depression
  • Seizures (at high doses)
Long-term effects of ecstasy

MDMA can be toxic, and sometimes lethal, at high doses. The drug causes an increase in body temperature and dehydration, synergistically contributing to kidney failure and muscle breakdown commonly seen in overdose cases.

Other long-term effects include:

  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Depression
  • Sleep abnormalities
  • Possible tolerance or drug craving
  • Long-lasting brain damage affecting memory and learning
  • Kidney failure
  • Psychosis

For more information see this overview of MDMA.

LSD

LSD (D-lysergic acid diethylamide, or "acid") is a clear or white odorless material made from lysergic acid, which is found in a fungus that grows on rye and other grains. It is a very powerful hallucinogen that temporarily disrupts communication between systems throughout the brain and spinal cord.

Immediate effects of LSD

Short term effects may include:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, body temperature
  • Nausea
  • Intensified emotions and sensory experiences
  • Changes in the tense of time
  • Spiritual experiences
  • Feelings of relaxation
  • Panic
  • Paranoia
Long-term effects of LSD

Two long-term effects have been associated with LSD, although these effects are rare and more often seen in people who have a history of mental illness.

They include:

  • Persistent psychosis: a series of continue problems that include visual disturbances, disorganized thinking, paranoia and mood changes;
  • Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD): recurrence of certain drug experiences, such as hallucinations or visual disturbances. These “flashbacks” often happen without warning and may occur within a few days or more than a year after drug use. These symptoms may be mistaken for other disorders such as a stroke or brain tumor.
Is LSD addictive?

LSD is not considered addictive but it does produce tolerance, meaning a person must take higher and higher doses to achieve the same effect. This is dangerous, given the unpredictability of the drug and the fact that its production is unregulated.

For more information see this overview of hallucinogens.