Whether or not you decide to drink or use drugs, being informed about the impact that alcohol and drugs can have on your health, academics and social life, as well as what you can do about these impacts and which resources are available on campus, can help you make informed decisions about the way you interact with these substances during your college life and beyond.



Everyone is doing it! Why not? The risk can’t be that great. It makes me relax and I have more fun that way.

Do you relate to any of these answers? The answer is probably yes, because these are common thoughts among college students. However, it’s important to distinguish the myths from the facts. Take a look at some of those myths here.


  • MYTH: My friends will think I'm weird if I don't drink.
    • TRUTH: Real friends won’t give up on you if you chose not to drink alcohol
  • MYTH: Everyone drinks.
    • REALITY: Not true. Surveys show that the majority of college students don’t drink regularly. If you choose not to drink, you’re definitely not alone.
  • MYTH: Beer is less intoxicating than other types of alcoholic beverage.
    • FACT: One 12-ounce can of beer, one 4-ounce glass of wine or one normal mixed drink or cocktail are all equally intoxicating.
  • MYTH: Switching between beer, wine and liquor will make you drunker.
    • FACT: Mixing types of drinks may make you sicker by upsetting your stomach, but it won't make you more intoxicated. Alcohol is alcohol.
  • MYTH: Cold Showers, fresh air or hot coffee help sober a person.
    • FACT: Only time will remove alcohol from the system. It takes the body approximately two hours to eliminate the alcohol in one pint of beer (general estimates). To read more about how long alcohol stays in your body, visit this link.
  • MYTH: Eating a big meal before you drink will keep you sober.
    • FACT: Drinking on a full stomach will only delay the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream, not prevent it. Eating before you drink is not a defense against getting drunk.
  • MYTH: Everyone reacts to alcohol in the same way.
    • FACT: Many factors affect a person's reaction to alcohol: body weight, metabolism, gender, body chemistry and many others.
  • MYTH: Alcohol gives you energy.
    • REALITY: This statement is false. Alcohol is a depressant, and can actually make you sleepy. It slows down your motor skills which control the way you think, speak, move and react.


Other common reasons why some students drink and use drugs

While many AUP students will choose not to drink or use other drugs, or decide to engage in these behaviors in safe and moderate ways, some will see experimenting with drugs and alcohol during their college years as a rite of passage. This interpretation, and other reasons listed below, may be misleading and drag students into behaviors that get out of their control:

  • Believing alcohol or drugs will make them more social or sexually desirable.
  • Enjoying newfound freedoms they didn’t have while living under their parents’ roof.
  • Taking advantage of being above the legal drinking age in France.
  • Using it as a strategy to cope with stress, anxiety or even boredom.
  • Being curious about the effects of alcohol or drugs.
  • Feeling under peer pressure and wishing to fit into a particular crowd.

Alcohol and substance abuse can be attributed to any one of these factors but it is often a combination of the above reasons and myths that lead college students to lose control and abuse drugs or alcohol in unmoderated ways that can lead to developing an addiction.

Effects of Alcohol and Drugs

With so much at stake for college students, it’s important to be informed about the risks inherent in consuming alcohol and drugs during college.


Alcohol has become the most commonly abused drug among college students and is therefore so ingrained in campus culture that it has become socially acceptable for college students to get drunk while out with friends. This makes it harder for students to see the harm in it. Unfortunately, college students that frequently drink are more likely to experience:

  • trouble at school
  • legal problems
  • a higher risk of suicide
  • a higher risk of assault
  • changes in brain development
  • an increased chance of alcohol addiction
  • memory problems
  • alcohol poisoning
  • lethal accidents
  • poor decision-making
  • an impact on their mental health, including mood swings, depression, irritability and anxiety.
Cannabis (Marijuana)

THC and CBD are the active components in cannabis. THC is a psychoactive composite that makes a person feel high, different from CBD which does not produce a high feeling and is used for medical reasons. These components come in different forms and strengths and there are different ways people use them (which affects each person differently).

Cannabis can be used by smoking (in a joint or using a pipe or bong), vaping (inhaling the vapor containing the released THC) or dabbing/hash oil (where the concentration of THC is higher and may take effect very quickly). Dabbing is extremely potent and shouldn't be used by anyone who hasn't used marijuana before. Cannabis can also be used in the form of edibles (drinks, food and candies cooked with cannabis products that contain THC). When using edibles, the effects can take longer to peak (up to four hours) but they last much longer than when smoking (up to ten hours or longer). The delay in the effects can cause people to take too much. Commercially available edibles use standard serving sizes, but when using homemade edibles the doses are unknown. Topicals are infused lotions or balms often with a higher CBD content than THC. They are sold for localized pain and inflammation and they do not make the user feel high.


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

  • respiratory effects such as a daily cough, bronchitis, mucus and wheezing;
  • affected memory;
  • hallucinations, paranoia, and not knowing what is real (particularly people with a background of psychosis or psychotic disorders); and
  • secondhand smoke, which has many of the same cancer-causing chemicals as secondhand smoke from tobacco.
Adderall And Other Study Drugs

Study drugs are any prescribed medication that acts like a stimulant and is used to increase concentration, energy and endurance, such as Ritalin, Concerta and Adderall. Unfortunately, even though this is medication prescribed under medical regulation, some students without this kind of supervision manage to get access to such substances and misuse them.

Adderall is an amphetamine that boosts mental and physical performance and is therefore sometimes called "college crack" by students. The user feels energized, stronger and self-assured because of hyperstimulation throughout the brain and body. These affects may allow a person to accomplish more than they usually would without the drug. It therefore becomes very tempting for the person to want to repeat these feelings over and over again, and this can easily lead to an addiction. Abuse of this substance can have important side effects on your mental and physical health.

Ecstasy or Molly and MDMA Drugs

This is known as the "party drug" because it produces a boost of energy and a euphoric high, which makes it extremely popular on college campuses. Ecstasy is frequently mixed with other drugs, like amphetamines, alcohol or caffeine, to produce a stronger high. These substances are therefore highly addictive and can cause:

  • hallucinations
  • paranoia
  • anxiety
  • increased body temperature
  • increase heart rate
  • dehydration.

While only a small number of deaths have been reported due to MDMA drugs, the risk of death does exists, as well as the risk of severe side effects and the high probability of developing an addiction.

Drug abuse and suicide among college students

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students and, according to research, alcohol and drug abuse has contributed to the growing number of suicides among college students. Students that engage in regular abuse of drugs and alcohol are more likely to experience:

  • social isolation
  • low self-esteem
  • loss of work or school time
  • estrangement from friends and family.

These factors make a person more vulnerable to suicidal ideation and, adding the fact that substance abuse decreases inhibitions and increases impulsiveness, the likelihood that someone will act on their suicidal thoughts and ideation increases. In fact, recent research is also supporting the hypothesis that overdoses can often disguise attempted suicides.

Safer Use of Alcohol and Cannabis

AUP parties, France’s wine culture, the AMEX Café, social gatherings at bars… you will inevitably be faced with choices that involve alcohol (and possibly other drugs) during your time at AUP. Think about what you’re comfortable with before being put into a situation. Moderation and balance is key to being healthy and making choices that you don’t regret later. 

We don’t need alcohol or any other drugs to be happy. However, it is normal to enjoy things that make us feel good. Keep in mind that it is not the alcohol that makes us feel good, but rather the dancing, the discussions, the music and the people we’re with while having a drink.

Although you don’t need the alcohol, healthy choices made while drinking can end in having a great time. An unhealthy choice, or the use of alcohol for the wrong reasons, usually leads to trouble. The best way to avoid all potential harms of drugs and alcohol is not to use them. But if you choose to use drugs and alcohol, here are some ways you can lower your risk of potential harm.


Everyone knows not to drink and drive, but have you thought through the risks of unprotected or undesired sex, of alcohol poisoning (according to your tolerance level), or of possible theft or mugging in the street? Ask yourself before drinking: how much money am I willing to spend? Where am I sleeping tonight? Do I trust the people I’m going out with? What do I have to do tomorrow? Have I recently had too much to drink?

  • Eat before and while drinking
  • Choose drinks with less alcohol
  • Keep track of your drinks
  • Stay with the same group of friends
  • Set your own personal limits ahead of time
  • Have a plan to get home safely
  • Avoid drinking games

If you decide to use cannabis, it is important to be informed not only about the potential medical benefits but also about the potential risks (see above section on effects of alcohol and drugs). It is also important to choose to use cannabis in ways that lower your risk of potential harm:

  • Limit your use
  • Check your doses
  • Know your limits
  • Consider a different method
  • Avoid driving

Helping Yourself, a Friend or a Student

Students should take the time to regularly examine their own behaviors, experiences and motivations to make sure that they are still in line with their goals, with the reasons why they came to AUP, and with what they want to accomplish.

If you worry you might be drinking too much, for example, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your drinking ever make you late for class?
  • Does your drinking worry your family and friends?
  • Do you ever drink after telling yourself you won't?
  • Do you ever forget what you did while you were drinking?
  • Do you get headaches or have a hang-over after you have been drinking?

You may not need to stop drinking alcohol, but you may want to cut down.


Talking out things may be the most underrated method of preventing abuse and addiction, but, in many cases, struggling students benefit greatly from a compassionate friend and a listening ear.

Whether you are a friend, a classmate or a professor, you can make a difference in the person's life. Maybe you are hurting, and you are wondering where to look for help. Here are some warning signs that it might be time for a person to offer or seek help:

  • Isolation from friends
  • Withdrawing from activities that were once enjoyed
  • Sudden spikes in substance abuse
  • Increased alcohol consumption
  • Substance abuse while alone
  • Unable to function or feel good without substance
  • Experience nausea, sweatiness, anxiety or confusion as a result of using or not using a substance

We are here to help you make healthy decisions for yourself and feel empowered to look out for your peers. Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with one of our counselors.