The Basics: What you should know about using alcohol or other drugs

When asked why they drink or use other drugs, most students report that they are looking to have fun, socialize, and relax. Most of the time, they get what they want out of the experience…but, sometimes, some less welcome outcomes occur. If you choose to drink or use other drugs, it is important to be aware of the wide range of effects that these substances can have on your judgment, behavior, and health.

Effects of Alcohol on the Body

  • More alcohol does not equal a better buzz! While small amounts of alcohol can make you feel “buzzed,” it is a depressant that will cause you to feel more sluggish, tired, and uncoordinated with each additional drink. Check out the myth vs. the reality.
  • As a depressant, alcohol inhibits your:
    •  Central nervous system – impairing judgment and coordination
    • Respiratory system – impairing breathing
    • – Gag reflex – making it possible for you to choke on your own vomit
    • – Ability to form memories – causing “blackouts,” or alcohol-induced memory loss
  • Loss of consciousness, or “passing out,” and death may also occur.
  • Your level of intoxication is related to the amount of alcohol that you consume, but it is also influenced by a variety of other factors. These include:
    • How quickly you drink
    • – Your body size
    • – Your hormone levels
    • – How much you ate prior to drinking
    • – Your stress or fatigue levels
    • – Whether or not you have also taken medications or other drugs
  • Sobering up takes time – nothing you can do can speed up this process and make your liver work faster!

Effects of Drugs on the Body

  • Illicit (or “street”) drugs and prescription medications – including stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, and narcotics – impact your breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate and can also cause confusion, distorted perceptions, altered reaction times, loss of coordination, and/or irrational behavior. Learn more here.
  • As illegal substances, street drugs are unregulated and can therefore have unpredictable effects that may vary with each use; there is no way of knowing exactly what you are putting in your body.
  • Prescription medications are not a safer alternative to street drugs. When used without the guidance and oversight of a medical professional, the potential for harm may equal that of illicit substances.

Effects of Mixing Alcohol with Other Drugs

  • Illicit drugs, prescription drugs, and over-the-counter medications can interact with alcohol and with each other in harmful and unpredictable ways.
  • Illicit drugs and prescription or over-the-counter medications can intensify or mask the effects of alcohol, thereby greatly increasing the risk for accidental overdose and death.
  • If you have been prescribed a medication by your doctor, pay attention to the warning labels on the bottle. Many prescription medications should never be used with alcohol; these combinations are potentially lethal.

Other Potential Consequences of Substance Use

  • Impaired judgment may lead to regrettable or dangerous situations. UWM students report having experienced a variety of detrimental outcomes as a result of their substance use, including:
    • – Illness
    • – Legal trouble
    • – Academic problems
    • – Regretted actions
    • – High-risk sexual activity
    • – Violence
  • Tickets for underage drinking, using a fake id, hosting an illegal tavern (i.e. charging for drinks, cups, or entry to your party), possessing drugs or drug paraphernalia, and other related charges are costly, and they can and will affect your future. Prior convictions can cause you to lose your financial aid and may lead to lifelong difficulties renting a home and landing a job.
  • Those who choose to use alcohol or other drugs are not the only ones detrimentally impacted by substance use at UWM. Students report having experienced disturbances to their quality of life due to the behaviors of peers who are under the influence, such as:
    • – Personal property damage
    • – Being awakened or kept from studying
    • – Being made to feel unsafe