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Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs

How Drugs Work

No matter how a drug is put in the body, it travels through the blood until it reaches the central nervous system. Psychoactive drugs affect the chemistry of the brain, especially that of neurotransmitters which transmit messages throughout the body. The drugs work by mimicking or modifying the effects of various neurotransmitters. This is what causes most of the effects on the mind and body. In addition to these direct effects, phenomena such as tolerance, tissue dependence, withdrawal, and metabolism determine a user's reaction to psychoactive drugs.

Factual Information

Up to date scientific information that is presented in an objective way can be found at the NIDA website under Trusted Sites. A variety of substances are covered, including alcohol, marijuana, ecstasy and other so-called 'Club Drugs'.

Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship with a Substance

The acronym RAGS, a series of questions you can ask yourself to assess an on-going interaction with a substance, may be helpful in assessing a drinking or other drug problem:

  • Have you ever felt you should… Reduce your substance use?
  • Have you ever felt… Annoyed by people criticizing your substance use?
  • Have you ever felt… Guilty about using a substance?
  • Ever needed a substance to… Start your day?

Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning occurs when the body's functions (heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing) have been severely depressed by the effects of alcohol, enough to produce unconsciousness and in some cases death. Acute alcohol intoxication, or alcohol poisoning, can occur after the ingestion of a large amount of alcohol. Inexperienced drinkers or those sensitive to alcohol may become acutely intoxicated and suffer serious consequences after ingesting smaller amounts of alcohol. An acronym useful in emergency situations such as possible alcohol poisoning is CUSP:

  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Unconsciousness
  • Slowed or irregular breathing
  • Puking, particularly while passed out

Seeking information or assistance

Health Promotion staff and Wellness staff can review factual information with you in a non-judgmental manner and discuss possible options for changing your relationship with a substance. These options can range from self-education and review of behavior change strategies to pursuit of more formal treatment.

Students in Recovery

Being a student and being in recovery can definitely be a challenge at times, but it can also be an exciting and rewarding experience. Finding support is important, and NYU offers several different types of support for students in recovery. For information about 12-step and self-help meetings on or near campus, call Health Promotion at 212-443-1234.

Health Promotion staff are available at SHC to discuss strategies for navigating the course of recovery. Students in recovery can also join a listserv to communicate with other NYU students in recovery. To join, send a blank email message to

Quick Links

Student Feedback

Alcohol and Other Drug Emergencies

For information about Alcohol and Other Drug Emergencies, click here...

Substance Abuse and Addiction Referrals

Substance abuse and addiction referral sheet (PDF)

12-Step Meetings PDF

12 Step Meetings recommended by NYU students (PDF)

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