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Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs

The health and safety consequences related to alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use remain significant concerns on college and university campuses across the country, including NYU. The behaviors of college students place them at high risk for unprotected sex, sexual assault, physical injury, and death resulting from substance use. Rates of heavy episodic (or binge) drinking have remained high and the misuse of additional substances, particularly prescription medications, has risen sharply in the past decade on college campuses, increasing overall risks associated with substance use in this population. Cigarette smoking, with its serious long-term health consequences, is reported at intermittent or at daily rates of nearly 20% among NYU students. Given the serious consequences of substance-using behaviors, NYU must focus on implementing a comprehensive approach to prevention beyond individually focused health education programs to include strategies designed to change the campus and community environment in which students make decisions about alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use.


Key Facts

Alcohol

  • The binge drinking rate at NYU is 34%,49 which is lower than the national average. 5
  •  Almost 1 in 4, or 1.8 million, college students meet the medical criteria for substance abuse or dependence, almost triple the proportion in the general population.2
  • College students aged 18 to 29 were almost twice as likely as adults 30 years of age or older to meet criteria for current alcohol abuse and more than 4 times as likely to meet criteria for current alcohol dependence.3,4
  • Studies show students more than double their drinking during study abroad, and those who drank at heavier levels while abroad returned home drinking at significantly elevated levels.5
  • An estimated 400,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 had unprotected sex and more than 100,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report having been too intoxicated to know if they consented to having sex.7
  • “Heavy and frequent” drinkers are approximately 5 to 6 times more likely than “non-heavy” drinkers to report that they had missed class and that they had performed poorly on a test or other project because of drinking.8
  • The phenomenon of perceived social norms – or the belief that “everyone” is drinking and drinking is acceptable – is one of the strongest correlates of drinking among young adults.9

Misuse of Prescription Drugs

  • NYC Department of Health reports a steady increase in ER visits related to prescription misuse.10
  • Prescription painkillers cause more overdose deaths than cocaine and heroin.11
  • From 1993 to 2005, the proportion of students who abused prescription painkillers like Percocet, Vicodin and OxyContin, increased 343% to 240,000 students; stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall, 93% to 225,000; tranquilizers like Xanax and Valium, 450 % to 171,000; and sedatives like Nembutal and Seconal, 225% to 101,000.2
  • From 2002-2009, self-reported, non-medical prescription opioid use increased by 40% among adults in New York City.10

Tobacco Use

  • Tobacco use is the leading cause of premature and preventable death in the world.12
  • Each year, an estimated 443,000 people in the U.S. die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and another 8.6 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking.13
  • Coupled with an enormous health toll is the significant economic burden of tobacco use—more than $96 billion a year in medical costs and another $97 billion a year from lost productivity.13
  • Every day, nearly 4,000 young people try their first cigarette and approximately 1,000 will become daily smokers. More than 80% of adult smokers started before their 18th birthday.14
  • During their years at college, 11.5% of nonsmokers will become occasional smokers and 14.4% of occasional smokers will become daily smokers.15
  • The typical nonsmoker’s net worth is roughly 50% higher than light smokers and roughly twice the level of heavy smokers.16

Suggestions for Student Leaders

This page is intended to be a resource containing suggestions for what you can do to help students reduce risks from alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use.

Learn the common signs of alcohol or substance issues and strategies to help you appropriately intervene. Encouraging fellow students to get help can make all the difference. If a student displays any signs or symptoms of overdose or withdrawal, please treat as a medical emergency and dial 911 and then immediately call the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999 for further consultation and assistance. If a student seems to display a chronic problem related to alcohol or drugs, but no emergency, call the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999 for guidance on how to encourage the student to get the help they need. For detailed information and resources, please visit the Wellness Exchange website.

Familiarize yourself with NYU’s policies on substance abuse and alcoholic beverages and NYU’s smoke free campus.

Actively plan alcohol-free social programming as a fun substitute for alcohol-related activities for your friends, peers, classmates, and club participants. 51,52 Plan a group trip to a museum, art show, concert, sporting event or on-campus activity. Use livewellnyu.com or Ticket Central, as resources and check the SWOS (Students Socializing without Substances) listserv for other substance-free activities. Time Out New York’s free events page is also a great place to start!

Apply for PAWS funding. PAWS (Programs and Activities Without Substances) is a pool of money set aside to help student groups sponsor substance-free activities at NYU. The central purpose of PAWS is to provide alternative, substance-free opportunities during the weekend or other times of high alcohol and other drug consumption. Typically resident assistants (RAs), commuter assistants (CAs), and student club members organize events for students using these FREE funds from the Health Promotion Office. To learn more about the guidelines and requirements and to apply for the money, review the PAWS Application Form.

Plan study sessions for your classmates, friends, peers, or members of your organization. To prevent the misuse or abuse of “study-buddy” drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin, encourage students to form study groups and proactively plan study sessions as an exam or assignment due date approaches. From 1993 to 2005, the proportion of students, nationally, who abused stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall increased 93% to about 225,000 students.53  By helping students form study groups, they may be more likely to practice safe and health study habits and avoid turning to non-prescribed drugs. This is a great event to co-sponsor with your Resident Assistants or Hall Council.

Plan educational programming about risk-reduction strategies, and hand out information about the resources available at NYU. The Health Promotion Office sponsors educational opportunities, such as tablings, for students facilitated by student leaders on a full range of topics, including ATOD issues. For more information, visit the NYU Student Health Center website.

o Portion Distortion Tabling Activity. Often, if students choose to drink, they are either out at a bar or in someone else’s apartment (or dorm). In dorm/apartment settings, Solo cups are a popular choice because they are cheap and disposable. There are rarely shot glasses around that people can use to measure when making drinks. This activity, which uses Solo cups and colored water, teaches participants how to “guesstimate” and gives them a practical way of monitoring their alcohol intake. When they are out at restaurants/bars, it is important for them to know that they can’t simply count the number of drinks they’re consuming—they must consider that there could be more alcohol than they anticipated in each drink they order.

Encourage friends, peers, and club members to announce alcohol-free events through the club’s listserv, Facebook group, Twitter, or at the weekly meeting. For instance, if a club member is also involved with an on-campus singing group, encourage that particular member to announce his/her upcoming performances. If a club member is on a sports team, ask him/her to announce upcoming games and fundraisers. Providing club members with fun, innovative ways to structure their time limits risky drinking behavior.54

Devote time each semester to focus on supporting smokers within your organization to quit. Participate in NYU’s Great American Smokeout Efforts in the fall, or hold your own version of the event in the spring to encourage members to quit for the day, or for good.

Refer students who would like to quit smoking to the NYU Quit and Win Smoking Cessation Program. The Quit and Win Smoking Cessation Program is coordinated by the Health Promotion Office (HPO) in collaboration with Primary Care Services and Counseling and Wellness Services (CWS). The Program provides individualized, confidential services – including brief informational sessions, nicotine replacement therapy, where indicated, or short-term individual cessation counseling – to all NYU students at no cost and provides a terrific opportunity to experience the benefits of a smoke-free life.

Use your leadership within a club or organization to create a safe space for your peers. Be open and direct about the fact that you serve as a resource to your peers, and club events and meetings are a safe environment to have discussions, ask questions, and seek help.

Always prioritize safety before anything else. NYU's first priority is the health and safety of all its students. The University therefore strongly encourages students to act responsibly when faced with a potential health emergency and/or substance-related medical concern by getting help for themselves or friends whenever they feel that their health and/or safety is at risk. Given this important responsibility, while it is impossible to guarantee that no action will be taken should such an incident be reported, the University can consider a variety of formal responses to an incident. NYU typically will not impose any judicial/disciplinary action for students who voluntarily request assistance for themselves or others in relation to a health and/or safety concern involving alcohol or substance use. Always prioritize a student’s safety before possible disciplinary action. Click here to learn more.


AOD Indicators


a) Alcohol-associated serious negative consequences

  • Data Source: ACHA #16C-16I
  • Survey Question: Within the last 12 months, have you experienced any of the following as a consequence of your drinking: got in trouble with the police; had sex with someone without giving your consent; had sex with someone without getting their consent; had unprotected sex; physically injured yourself; physically injured another person; seriously considered suicide?
  • Definition: proportion who responded yes on any consequence (includes N/A, don’t drink in denominator) 

b) Students who avoid drinking games

  • Data Source: ACHA #15B
  • Survey Question: Within the last 12 months, when you “partied”/socialized, how often did you: avoid drinking games?
  • Definition: proportion who responded “most of the time” or “always” (includes N/A, don’t drink in denominator) 

c) Student taking prescription drugs that were not prescribed

  • Data Source: ACHA #18C-18E
  • Survey question: Within the last 12 months have you taken any of the following prescription drugs that were not prescribed to you: pain killers, sedatives OR stimulants?
  • Definition: proportion answering yes to pain killers OR sedatives OR stimulants (18C-18E)

d) Students who currently smoke tobacco

  • Data Source: ACHA # Q8A1
  • Survey question: Within the last 30 days, on how many days did you use cigarettes?
  • Definition: proportion who smoked within last 30 days (any amount)

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