Other Drugs

Columbia students make smart, safe, and responsible decisions about drug use. The majority of Columbia students – more than 93 percent in the last three months – did not use illegal drugs, according to a 2023 survey (Columbia University Morningside ACHA-NCHA, Spring 2023). In addition, more than 96 percent of students have not used prescription drugs not prescribed to them in the last three months.

There are many different types of drugs, including stimulants, depressants, and hallucinogens, just to name a few. All drugs, legal or illegal, have risks. To learn more about the different types of drugs, check out the categories below.

Performance enhancing drugs, such as caffeine or steroids, have been used to increase energy, strength, and stamina. However, these substances are also sometimes addictive, illegal, and may have long- and short-term health consequences.

Learn more at the Go Ask Alice! Caffeine, Energy Boosters, and Other Performance Enhancing Drugs archives.

Stimulants are a type of drug that increases blood pressure, heart rate, and energy and makes the user more alert. Some stimulants may be prescribed for a few health conditions, including Attention-deficient hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and depression.

Learn more about stimulants at the Go Ask Alice! Cocaine and Other Stimulants archives.

Inhalants are chemicals breathed in from common sources including glue, markers, cleaners, and spray cans for the psychoactive effects. They are often not considered “drugs” because this is not the intended use of the product. Inhalants can be both depressants and stimulants. Using inhalants can lead to short-term health issues such as nausea and vomiting, or more long-term concerns including damage to the nervous system and kidney and liver damage.

Learn more about inhalants at the Go Ask Alice! LSD, Inhalants, and Hallucinogens archives.

Hallucinogens are chemicals found in plants (including certain mushrooms) that produce a mind-altering (psychoactive) effect. These drugs come in pills and liquids, and sometimes the plant itself is eaten. Hallucinogens distort reality and can lead to severe mood swings. However, it is difficult to say exactly what happens when a hallucinogen is used because they can affect people very differently.

Learn more about hallucinogens at the Go Ask Alice! LSD, Inhalants, and Other Hallucinogens archives

Opioids are a type of drug that are produced from or mimic the effects of the opium poppy plant. They can include illegal drugs like heroin, synthetic drugs like fentanyl, and prescription pain relievers like oxycodone, codeine, and morphine. Opioids act on the central nervous system by blocking the pain signals between the body and the brain. If a person uses an opioid over a period of time, they can develop tolerance or dependence.

Learn more about opioids at the Go Ask Alice! Prescription, Opioids, and Over-the-Counter Medications archives.

Prescription drugs are medications prescribed by a health care provider for a specific individual to use. Over-the-counter drugs are legal drugs available without a prescription. Both of these types of medications are intended to be used to treat health issues; however, sometimes they are used improperly, or they are used by someone who did not receive the prescription. This can lead to many different adverse health issues.

Learn more about prescription and over-the-counter drugs at the Go Ask Alice! Prescription, Opioids, and Over-the-Counter Medications archives.

Sedatives are substances that slow down the activity of the brain. They are typically prescribed to help with anxiety or sleeping issues. Some have the potential to be addictive or lead to other health issues.

Learn more about sedatives at the Go Ask Alice! Alcohol & Other Depressants archives.

Tobacco is found in many different forms, including cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff, and chewing tobacco. All forms of tobacco contain nicotine, a highly addictive stimulant. It is absorbed into the bloodstream when tobacco or nicotine products are chewed, inhaled, or smoked. More than half of students reported never using tobacco products (Data from Columbia University Morningside ACHA-NCHA, Spring 2019).

Interested in Quitting?

Check out our Nicotine Cessation program.

University Guidelines and Policies on Smoking

Columbia Health follows the guidelines and policies set forth in the University Smoking Policy. All students, faculty, and staff are expected to comply with this policy.

Learn more about tobacco at the Go Ask Alice! Tobacco, E-Cigarettes, and Nicotine archives.

Signs of a Problem with Drugs

There are many signs that indicate addiction to a substance:

  • Feeling the need to use the substance regularly to function normally (daily or multiple times a day)
  • Using the substance as a stress management or coping mechanism
  • Engaging in behaviors normally not undertaken while under the influence of the substance
  • Being unable to stop using the substance after trying
  • Spending money on the substance, even when there is no money for it
  • Making sure some of the substance is always available for use
  • Engaging in behaviors normally not undertaken to get the substance (e.g., stealing)

If you are concerned you or a friend has a problem with drug use, consider making an appointment to meet with a BASICS provider at Alice! Health Promotion or a mental health professional at Counseling and Psychological Services.

Campus Guidelines and Policies

Columbia Health follows the guidelines and policies set forth in Essential Policies on alcohol and other drug use. To comply with federal, state, and city laws, and to promote the health and well-being of its community, Columbia has enacted policies on alcohol and drugs. All students, faculty, and staff are expected to comply with these policies.

Also take note of information found in the Columbia Housing Guide to Living, including policies and procedures on alcohol and other drugs, and the Responsible Community Action Policy.

Guidelines and policies may vary by school. Please check with your school for more information.

Last updated:  6/21/2024