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


  • 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 Administrators & Staff

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.

Become familiar with the common signs of alcohol or substance issues and strategies to help you appropriately intervene. Close contact between administrators/staff and students can be an effective vehicle for identification and referral1 of students with alcohol or other drug problems to appropriate treatment services on campus. Simply encouraging 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 other drugs, but does not seem to be an 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

Facilitate student participation in substance-free social opportunities. Large amounts of unstructured student time and student perceptions of heavy alcohol use can contribute to increased alcohol use and binge drinking.51 Alcohol-free social programming may be an effective strategy for decreasing alcohol use on days when students attend alcohol-free events rather than alcohol-related events or gatherings.52,53 Substance-free social options may also contribute to changing the sociocultural environment on campus by demonstrating that the university supports alcohol-free activities and limiting access to alcohol during events. In addition, students who attend are exposed to peers who are more likely to value alcohol-free entertainment, which may affect their beliefs about drinking norms on campus.54

o Remind students of the resources available to them to plan substance-free social programming. For example, NYU spaces can be reserved for club events. Students can visit, the SWOS page, or join the listserv of one of NYU’s 400 clubs and organizations to learn about current programming. Encourage student organizations to apply for Programs and Activities Without Substances (PAWS) funding, 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 direct students to apply for the money, review PAWS Application Form.

o Invite students to participate in seminars, events, lectures, or other activities that coincide with their course curriculum or your specific department. For upcoming seminars and events, visit the NYU Events Calendar, Wasserman Center for Career Development for NYU Programs, or NY Daily News for events around the city.

o Allow five minutes at the end of each group meeting or event with students to announce upcoming alcohol-free social programs. Visit LiveWellNYU, join the NYU SWOS listserv, or one of NYU’s 400 clubs and organizations to learn about current programming

o Provide a bulletin board, drop-box by your office or desk, or access to your department’s social media channels for students to publicize their alcohol-free social events.

Familiarize yourself with NYU’s Smoke Free Campus Policy

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.

Plan educational programming about risk-reduction strategies. The Health Promotion Office sponsors educational opportunities such as tablings for students facilitated by student leaders on a full range of topics addressed by the Health Promotion Office, including AOD issues. Visit the NYU Student Health Center's Program and Workshop page for more information.

AOD Indicators