SSAC is committed to helping you make healthy decisions for yourself and be empowered to look out for one another. We strive to keep you informed and educated about substances so that you make the personal choice on whether or not to use a substance. All drugs have associated risks. On our site, you can find information regarding these substances:

  • Alcohol
  • Cannabis
  • Tobacco and/or Vaping
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Opioids

General Resources

Know the policies:

Concerned for a Friend?

Mandated to take BASICS?

  • Please email ssac@gmu.edu with the subject line: BASICS meeting, to set up your first appointment.

Patriots for Recovery

  • Patriots for Recovery is currently recruiting students that identify with being in recovery, having a substance use disorder, eating disorder or other process addictions who are looking to build a community on Mason’s campus for peer to peer support. Interested? Please contact Lin Chun at lphilpot@gmu.edu with your interest.

Alcohol

Whether you choose to drink or not, knowing how alcohol affects your body, how to reduce negative outcomes, and what resources are available on campus can help you to make informed decisions about drinking.

Serving Size

How much is one drink?

Drinks contain differing amounts of alcohol. One standard drink contains 0.6 oz of ethanol (pure alcohol). Beer, wine, and liquor have different amounts of alcohol in each. Knowing how many standard drinks you have had can help you estimate how much alcohol you have in your system.

 

What is BAC?

BAC, Blood Alcohol Content, is the percentage of alcohol in someone’s blood. A person’s BAC will depend on the amount consumed over what period of time. Factors like gender, food intake, and weight play a role. Utilize this BAC Calculator tool to approximate your BAC levels.

 

Tips for Safer Drinking

Different strategies work for different people. Overall, it is helpful to think about what strategies you might use.

  • Eat before and while drinking: This helps slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.
  • Keep track: Remember your BAC Calculator and how many drinks it takes to get to your limit.
  • Stay with the same group of friends: Look out for one another, get help if somebody needs it, and go home together. Generally have a plan of action that everyone agrees on.
  • Avoid drinking games: Drinking games often encourage drinking faster and in various quantities, making it difficult to keep track of how much you’ve been drinking.
  • Pour your own drinks: It’s important to know what you’re consuming and pouring your own drinks helps with keeping track of what you’re drinking and how much you’re drinking.

Signs of Alcohol Overdose

Think “P.U.B.S.” if someone shows any of these signs, seek medical help immediately.

  • P stands for puking while passed out.
    • If someone is in this condition it is best to roll them on their side so that their airway does not become obstructed if they do not vomit
  • U stands for unresponsive
    • Responsiveness can be checked by tugging on a person’s earlobe or performing a sternum rub with your knuckles to their breast bone. Either of these should wake someone up, so if they do not respond, they are in need of medical assistance.
  • B stands for breathing
    • If a person’s breathing is irregular, shallow, strained, or stopped completely, they need help.
  • S stands for skin
    • If the skin is blue, cold, or clammy they are in an alcohol overdose situation

Additional Resources

eCheckup To Go is a free educational tool to provide feedback regarding their use patterns, potential risk, overview of goals, and helpful resources at GMU.

Cannabis

Cannabis and its active components, THC and CBD, come in different forms and strengths and can affect people differently. THC is the psychoactive compound found in cannabis that makes a person using it feel “high.” CBD does not produce a “high” feeling and some people use it for medical reasons.

Cannabis vs Marijuana

Though marijuana is the most common name for cannabis in the United States today, its history is deeply rooted in racism and politics. There is a longstanding theory that narcotics agents in the 1930s chose “marijuana,” a word of Mexican-Spanish origin, over the scientific “cannabis” when crafting drug laws in order to play into the US’s growing fear of immigrants. “Marijuana” was also connected with Black jazz musicians in an attempt to racialize its use after the end of prohibition.

Tips for Safer Use

While there is evidence of some medical benefits to cannabis, there are also some potential harm:

  • Respiratory effects: People who smoke daily or near-daily may have a daily cough, bronchitis, mucus, and wheezing.
  • Memory: Daily or near daily use may negatively impact memory
  • Mental Health: High doses can cause hallucinations, paranoia, and not knowing what is real. This is a particular concern for individuals who have a personal or family history of psychosis or psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia

The best way to avoid all potential harms from cannabis is to not use cannabis. If you choose to use cannabis, here are some ways you can lower your risk of potential harm:

  • Limit your use: Using cannabis frequently is strongly associated with higher risk of health and social problems. Limiting cannabis use to occasional use can help lower risk for potential harm.
  • Know your limits: Cannabis affects people differently. Varying doses, strains, and forms can lead to different lengths and strengths of impairment (or being high). If you are unsure of how cannabis or a method of ingestion will affect you, start with a low dose and wait for the effects before taking more. Do not test your limits. Signs that you’ve had too much can include extreme confusion, anxiety, paranoia, panic, fast heart rate, delusions or hallucinations.
  • Check your doses: High THC-content products are generally associated with higher risks of various mental and behavioral problem outcomes. You should know the nature and composition of the cannabis products you use in order to understand how your body reacts to the substance.
  • Avoid driving: Driving while under the influence of cannabis can increase risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident. If you’re smoking cannabis, wait at least six hours before driving. If you’re eating or drinking a product with THC, wait at least eight hours. Avoid getting into a car when the driver is under the influence.
  • Avoid Mixing Substances: Using cannabis with alcohol at the same time can impair your more than using either one alone. It’s never a good idea to use them together. Using cannabis with other substances can enhance effects of THC, dehydration, decreased judgement, and overall higher health risks.

Additional Resources

eCheckup To Go is a free educational tool to provide feedback regarding their use patterns, potential risk, overview of goals, and helpful resources at GMU.

 

Tobacco

Most individuals already know about the harm associated with smoking cigarettes, using smokeless tobacco, and vaping.

 

Effects of e-cigarettes

E-cigarettes, Juuls, and vapes contain nicotine, which is the addictive chemical in the aerosol. The long-term effects are not clear, but some of the health effects that have been established are caused by the nicotine. Consumption of the chemical may lead to nicotine addiction, changes in attention and learning, a lowering of impulse control, toxicity to children, and danger to developing fetuses. The batteries in e-cigarettes have also been linked to fires and explosions. The body can quickly develop a tolerance to the nicotine in vape juice due to the body’s efforts to protect itself from toxic substance, made worse by not being filtered on its way into the body.

How to I quit or help a friend quit?

Visit these resources to learn how to best support your loved one who is trying to quit.

 

Opioids

There has been an epidemic of opioid overdose deaths in the United States, often impacting young people.

What are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, morphine, and many others.

What are signs of Opioid Overdose?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention list the following as signs of an opioid overdose:

  • Small, constricted “pinpoint pupils”
  • Falling asleep or loss of consciousness
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Chocking or gurgling sounds
  • Limp body
  • Pale, blue, or cold skin

How can I help someone who overdoses?

If you think someone has overdosed on opioids, respond by either calling 911 immediately. Lay the person in the recovery position, which is on their side with their arm supporting their head and top leg bent at the knee, preventing them from rolling onto their stomach.