Drug Health Risks

Drug and Alcohol Use Policy

Park University is committed to ensuring the health, safety, and welfare of all the members of our university community. We recognize that misuse of alcohol and other drugs and the unlawful possession, use or distribution of drugs and alcohol pose major health problems and security concerns. It can also adversely affect academic and job performance, and inhibit the educational development of students.

As a result, Park has established a Drug and Alcohol Use Policy which establishes regulations forbidding the unlawful manufacture, dispensing, distribution, possession, display, use, or consumption of illegal or illicit drugs and alcohol on University owned or controlled property or as part of any University programs or activities.

Park is further committed to providing education regarding the negative impacts of such activities.


Alcohol is the drug most frequently abused on college campuses.  Alcohol consumption, even in low doses, can cause a number of marked changes in behavior.  Alcohol can decrease your ability to analyze sensory information, resulting in disturbed balance, slurred speech, blurred vision, heavy sweating, and a dulled sense of pain.

Alcohol, in low to moderate doses, can also significantly impair your judgment and coordination.  This impairment increases the likelihood that you will be injured or killed in a vehicle accident.  Impairment can also increase the likelihood of risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners which could result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases (i.e. HIV).  Additionally, such impairment also increases the chances that you will be involved in or the victim of a variety of aggressive acts, including, but not limited to: sexual assault, dating violence, and domestic violence.

In moderate to high doses, alcohol can cause marked impairments in higher mental functions, severely altering a person’s ability to learn and remember information.

Short-term excessive use (binge drinking) may additionally cause respiratory depression, alcohol poisoning, miscarriage, or even death.  Binge drinking is defined as 5+ drinks in 2 hours for men and 4+ drinks in 2 hours for women.

Long-term excessive drinking (defined as 15 drinks per week for men and 8 drinks per week for women), can lead to the following in addition to all other effects described above:

  • Alcohol dependence or alcoholism
  • Anemia
  • Cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, liver, breast, or colon
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Dementia
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Gout
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver disease and/or heart disease
  • Nerve damage
  • Pancreatitis
  • Sleep disorders
  • Stroke

If you become dependent on alcohol as a result of repeated use, sudden cessation of consumption is likely to produce withdrawal symptoms.  These symptoms include severe anxiety, tremors, hallucinations, and convulsions.  Alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening.

Drinking during pregnancy can result in stillbirth, miscarriage, physical and mental birth defects, or infants born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).  FASDs can cause conditions such as physical problems and problems with behavior and learning.  Often, infants born with an FASD have a mixture of these conditions, which include:

  • Abnormal facial features (i.e. a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip)
  • Small head size
  • Low body weight
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Difficulty with attention
  • Poor memory
  • Learning disabilities
  • Speech and language delays
  • Intellectual disability or low IQ
  • Poor reasoning and judgment skills
  • Sleep and suckling problems as a baby
  • Vision or hearing problems
  • Problems with the heart, kidneys, or bones

To learn more about FASDs, please visit the CDC’s Facts About FASDs page.

If alcohol (which is a depressant) is combined with other depressants, much lower doses of alcohol will produce the effects described.


Adverse health risks associated with the use of illegal drugs and/or abuse of controlled substances can range from nausea and anxiety to coma and death.  Use/abuse of such substances may also include the increased likelihood risk of risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners which could result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases (i.e. HIV).  Additionally, such impairment also increases the chances that you will be involved in or the victim of a variety of aggressive acts, including, but not limited to:  sexual assault, dating violence, and domestic violence.  Pregnant women who smoke cigarettes or use other drugs expose their babies to serious risks, including miscarriage, low birth weight, or brain damage.

Please note that when drugs and/or controlled substances are used in combination, the negative effects associated with them are compounded.


Cannabis-based drugs impair shirt-term memory and comprehension, in addition to interfering with speech, coordination, and perception of time.  These drugs increase the user’s heart rate and appetite while producing bloodshot eyes and dry mouth and throat.  These effects (especially impairment of coordination and judgment) can still remain in effect hours after the feeling of being high fades.  Additionally, cannabis may remain the body for weeks after use.

Smoking cannabis may lead to lung damage and an increased risk of lung cancer.  Over time, these drugs may produce abnormalities in the hormonal and reproductive system and weaken the immune system of the user.

Overdose on cannabis may result in paranoia, panic attacks, or psychiatric problems.


Club drugs are so named because they are the most commonly used drugs at dance clubs, raves, and bars.  It is important to note that no club drug is safe due to variations in purity, potency, and concentration.  These drugs can cause serious health problems or even death, depending on these factors.  GHB, for example, can result in drowsiness, loss of consciousness and/or reflexes, nausea and vomiting, headache or even seizures, coma, and death.  Rohypnol can result in memory loss for the time in which a person is under the drug’s effects, urinary retention, and visual and gastrointestinal disturbances.

Ecstasy can cause anxiety, panic and confusion, dry mouth, impaired memory and learning, increased heart rate and blood pressure, increased body temperature, and mild hallucinogenic effects.  As the drug wears off, users often feel depression.  Over time, use of ecstasy can result in cardiac/liver toxicity, increased liver and kidney problems including renal failure, and a depletion of serotonin which leads to chronic depression, memory impairment, and personality changes.  Ecstasy also interferes with the body’s ability to regulate fluid and salt balance.  This makes it easy for users to overhydrate and cause the brain to swell.

When mixed with alcohol, these risks are increased.  Club drugs are occasionally used and/or administered in connection with sexual assault.


The use of narcotics has a high likelihood of leading to physical and psychological dependence on these drugs.  Temporary health effects include constricted pupils, watery eyes, a dazed look, and an initial euphoria followed by drowsiness and nausea.  Longer term health effects include anxiety, mood swings, confusion, constipation, and respiratory depression.

Sharing needles while using narcotics significantly increases the likelihood of being infected with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) or other diseases.

Overdose on narcotics may produce slow, shallow breathing, clammy skin, loss of appetite and weight, convulsions, coma, and even death.


Depressants can have many of the same initial effects as alcohol.  In small doses, depressants can produce relaxed muscles, calmness, and drowsiness.  In slightly larger doses, they can also cause confusion, disorientation, impaired judgment and slurred speech.  Very large doses can cause respiratory depression, coma, and death.

In addition to these effects, barbituate use can also result in depression, dizziness, fever, irritability, and unusual excitement.  Long-term use can lead to physical and psychological addiction with potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms ranging from restlessness, insomnia, and anxiety to convulsions and death.

Benzodiapanines can also result in dizziness, while Quaaludes can also result in depression.

Overdose on depressants may produce shallow breathing, clammy skin, weak and rapid pulse, coma, and possible death.

Pregnant women who abuse depressants may give birth to babies with physical dependencies on the drugs and show withdrawal symptoms shortly after birth.  Birth defects and behavioral problems may also result.


Stimulant use can result in increased heart and respiratory rates, elevated blood pressure, dilated pupils, and decreased appetite.  Some users also experience headache, sweating, blurred vision, dizziness, insomnia, moodiness and anxiety.  High doses can cause physical collapse, irregular heartbeat, stroke, and possible death.

Cocaine (and its cheaper, crystal form crack) use can also lead to chest and abdominal pain, panic attacks, paranoia, heart attacks, loss of libido, nausea and increased body temperature.  Cocaine is very addictive and tolerance builds quickly.  Thus, many users quickly develop a strong psychological dependence and require increased doses to produce the desired high.  Repeated use can lead to damage to veins leading to ulcers and gangrene, an increased risk of bloodborne infections such as hepatitis or HIV, damage to lungs and nasal septum, and a constant feeling of being “run-down” when not taking cocaine.  Long-term use can lead to changes to the brain, especially in the brain’s “reward” circuits which control a person’s sense of pleasure and personality changes.

Nicotine is the drug found in tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, etc).  This drug increases your heart rate and raises your blood pressure.  In cigarette and cigar smoke, tar is a major cause of cancer and other respiratory diseases, while carbon monoxide can lead to arterioschlerosis.  Long-term effects of smoking include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, heart disease and lung cancer.  Smokeless tobacco increases risk of mouth, tongue, cheek, gum, and esophageal cancer as well as stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Smoking during pregnancy increases the baby’s heart rate inside the womb and increases the risks of miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, low birth weight, and birth defects.  Children born to mothers who smoked while pregnant are also at increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and developing respiratory problems.  There is no “safe” level of smoking while pregnant.

Amphetamines (including methamphetamine) create a very sudden increase in blood pressure than can result in very high fever, stroke, or heart attack.  They also can result in aggressive and/or erratic behavior, depression, hallucinations, panic and paranoia, and bad feelings as the drug wears off.  Other psychological effects include increased libido, euphoria or anxiety, alertness, psychosomatic disorders, repetitive and obsessive behaviors, irritability, and grandiosity.  With chronic use and/or high doses, amphetamine psychosis can occur.

Other physical effects of amphetamine use include hyperactivity, vasoconstriction, bloodshot eyes with dilated pupils, flushing, restlessness, tachycardia (higher than normal resting heart rate), bradycardia (lower than normal resting heart rate), tachypnea (rapid breathing), bruxism (teeth grinding), low or high blood pressure, profuse sweating, aphasia (difficulty understanding and expressing language), twitching, numbness, palpitations, tremors, arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), diarrhea or constipation, and dry or itchy skin and acne.  Chronic use and/or high doses can result in seizure, stroke, coma, heart attack, and death.

Many people who become addicted to amphetamines develop a secondary addiction such as benzodiazapines (a combination called a “goofball”) or alcohol in order to reduce the unpleasant side effects of amphetamine usage.  However, the combination of uppers and downers significantly increases the risk of a heart attack.

Methamphetamine is an extremely addictive amphetamine.  Use by injection or smoking creates an instant, intense euphoria that fades very quickly, thus leading to multiple hits in a “binge and crash” pattern.  In addition to the side effects normally associated with amphetamines, chronic methamphetamine use causes chemical and physical changes in the areas of the brain associated with emotion and memory.  Some of these changes persist long after methamphetamine use is stopped.  Click here to learn more about the risks associated with methamphetamine.


Hallucinogens can cause powerful distortions in thinking and perception.  LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin (mushrooms) cause delusions and hallucinations; increase body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure; numbness; weakness; insomnia; tremors; and a loss of appetite.  It is common to experience unpredictable, adverse psychological reactions including anxiety, confusion, panic, loss of control and paranoia.  “Trips” usually last up to 12 hours.

PCP (also known as Angel Dust) interrupts the areas of the brain which control intellect, instinct, and pain reception.  The blockage of the body’s brain receptors often leads to self-injury during violent PCP episodes.  The effects of PCP on users can be very unpredictable and vary from user to user and from episode to episode.  The most common physical effects are a feeling of distance or estrangement or that time and movement are slowed, a loss of muscle control and coordination, and slurred or incoherent speech.  Other effects can include aggression, decreased heart rate and blood pressure, depression, loss of appetite, panic, and violence. Chronic use can result in persistent memory problems and speech difficulties.  Large doses can lead to convulsions, coma, or heart or lung failure.


Anabolic steroids are synthetic versions of the male sex hormone testosterone usually prescribed to treat hormone deficiency problems.  These drugs can also be abused by otherwise healthy athletes, bodybuilders, and others in an attempt to enhance performance and/or improve physical appearance.  Such abuse can lead to aggression or rage (“roid rage”), paranoid jealousy, extreme mood swings, extreme irritability, high blood pressure, fluid retention, increased risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis if sharing needles, and impaired judgment due to feelings of invincibility.

For men, anabolic steroid abuse can also lead to shrinkage of the testicles, reduced sperm count or infertility, baldness, development of breasts, and an increased risk for prostate cancer.

For women, anabolic steroid abuse can lead to the growth of facial hair, male-pattern baldness, changes in or the cessation of the menstrual cycle, enlargement of the clitoris, and a deepened voice.

Chronic use can result in irreversible health problems, including kidney impairment or failure, damage to the liver, enlargement of the heart, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of stroke and heart attack due to changes in blood cholesterol.


Some household and workplace products contain volatile substances that have mind-altering properties when inhaled.  These include spray paints, gas, markers, glues, other aerosols and cleaning solutions.  Nitrous oxide (used in the dental industry and often called “laughing gas”) can also be abused and is often loaded into small canisters and sold as “whippets.”  Health effects include frostbite (from rapid expansion of propellant gases) confusion, nausea, slurred speech, lack of coordination, euphoria, dizziness, drowsiness, hallucinations and/or delusions, and headache.  Even the first inhalation can lead to other very serious effects such as convulsions and seizures, suffocation, heart failure, hypoxia (the body is deprived of oxygen), coma, or sudden sniffing death (especially with butane, propane, and other chemicals found in aerosols).

Chronic use can result in liver and kidney damage and myelin breakdown which leading to muscle spasms, tremors, and possible permanent motor impairment.  Those with addictive personalities may develop an addiction to inhalants.

Nitrites (or “poppers”) are a special class of inhalants abused to enhance sexual pleasure and performance.  They can significantly increase the risk of unsafe sexual practices which in turn increase the risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis.  Additionally, short term use can result in systematic vasodilation, increased heart rate, brief sensations of heat and excitement, dizziness, and headache.  Chronic use can lead to lipoid pneumonia.  In combination with alcohol, nitrites increase the risk of cardiovascular effects and result in dangerously low blood pressure.

Pregnant women who abuse inhalants may experience spontaneous abortions and increase the risk of their babies being born with birth defects.

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