Alcohol and other drugs

Overview

A drug is any substance that causes a change in someone’s mental, emotional, or physical state, such as caffeine, nicotine (tobacco), and alcohol.

All substance use carries some risk, making it important to consider its short-term and long-term effects on your wellbeing and success as a student. 

While not using a drug at all has the lowest risk, if you choose to use alcohol or other drugs, it’s important to make a plan to reduce any possible harm.

Alcohol

Cannabis

Vaping, smoking, and nicotine

Illegal drugs

Fentanyl, an opioid, is a strong painkiller that is being mixed into illegal drugs in Vancouver. A very small amount of fentanyl can be fatal.

Fentanyl has been found in drugs like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA, and ecstasy as well as in drugs resembling prescription pills, such as Percocet or Tylenol 3.

If you use or intend to use illegal drugs, you can:

A free naloxone kit is available from UBC Student Health Service and at BC pharmacies. All kits are confidential and freely available for those at risk of opioid overdose, or those who might witness a family member or friend at risk of an overdose.

Sign up for the Opioid Overdose First Aid Canvas course to learn more.

Intentional use of substances to facilitate sexual assault

Using drugs, including alcohol, to deliberately create a situation in which a person cannot give consent, and then pursue unwanted sexual contact or attention, is substance-facilitated sexual assault. The best way to avoid causing someone harm when they are consuming alcohol and other drugs is to respect their wellbeing, boundaries, wants and needs. You are responsible for not causing harm to others when consuming yourself.

Sometimes people add drugs to alcohol without the consent of the person, or people, drinking it. This is known as spiking. As a friend, event organizer, or community member you might notice that someone is acting as though they have had way more drinks than they have consumed or that they are acting normally but later have no memory of an interaction with someone. Here’s how you can help

If you are concerned someone may have deliberately incapacitated and/or sexually assaulted you or someone you know, you can connect with confidential, non-judgemental support services at Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO) or AMS Sexual Assault Support Center (SASC). It is not your fault and we believe you. 

If you are concerned someone has sexuallty assaulted you or someone you know, and you/they would like to seek medical attention, find out about medical options.

Consent 

If you think incapacitating someone with alcohol or drugging someone is a normal part of sexual activity, you are wrong. This has been normalized by the media and is actually sexual assault, not consent.

Consent to sexual activity requires conscious, not intoxicated, voluntary agreement to engage in that specific sexual activity by those involved.

Belief of Consent is not an excuse if you:

  • Believed you had consent due to your own intoxication,
  • Knew, or reasonably should have known, the other person was incapacitated, asleep, or unconscious, or
  • Knew that, due to the influence of alcohol and/ or other drugs, the other person was unable to fully understand or agree to the sexual activity.

Learn more through the Sexual Consent and Culture of Consent Canvas module or connect with SVPRO to discuss and unpack these beliefs.

If you choose not to use alcohol or other drugs

University students often believe that a much higher percentage of their peers use alcohol and other drugs than is actually the case. Don’t assume that you’re the only one if you choose not to drink alcohol, use cannabis, or any other drugs. 

Everyone has different reasons for using or not using a substance and we need to respect these reasons and differences. If you choose not to use substances, whether it’s for one night or regularly, make a plan for communicating your choice to others.

  • Work out where you stand on substance use
    Knowing why you are making a decision makes it easier to stay true to yourself.
  • Prepare yourself 
    People may offer you something, so think through how you would want to respond if someone asks or offers. It may help to discuss your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust.
  • Say “no” firmly and clearly
    State your decision honestly, without making a big deal about it. If a person offering tries to persuade you, you can walk away from the conversation or situation. 

Alcohol and drug policy in Canada and at UBC

Part of making informed choices about substance use is knowing the laws and policies in Canada, British Columbia, and at UBC. It’s your responsibility to be aware of these laws, including knowing which drugs are illegal.

  • Legal substances
    Alcohol, cannabis and nicotine are all legal to be consumed and purchased in BC for those 19 and older. Learn about the health effects of alcohol, cannabis, and vaping.
  • Event planning
    Students organizing an event with liquor must review the UBC policy on serving alcohol on campus. If you are looking to learn more about designing safer events with a harm reduction approach, you can complete the Canvas module on Inclusive Event Planning, and request a workshop and/or consultation with the Wellness Centre and SVPRO.
  • Rules in residence
    In UBC residences, there are other rules on alcohol, smoking, and cannabis possession, which can be found in your residence contract.
  • Sexual assault and substance abuse
    At UBC we have a Sexual Misconduct Policy. Voluntary consent must be obtained by the person initiating any action and does not exist if someone is incapacitated due to ingestion of drugs or alcohol (Section 4.1). Section 1.10 of the policy includes commitments from UBC that students who have experienced sexual misconduct and wish to report and/or seek support services will be protected from consequences of violating drug or alcohol policies (e.g., drinking underage or in excess).

When to seek help

You may want to seek help if alcohol or other drug use is impacting your day-to-day life and success as a student.

  • Has alcohol or other drug use been affecting your grades, learning, or finances?

  • Has alcohol or other drug use affected your ability to attend classes or labs, complete coursework, or participate in group meetings?

  • Has alcohol or other drug use affected your relationships or responsibilities with friends, family or partner(s)?

  • Do you feel guilty about your substance use?

  • Have you tried and been unsuccessful in cutting down on your use of alcohol and/or other drugs?

Apps and interactive resources

These websites and apps have been carefully chosen by health professionals at UBC. They’re easy and accessible tools you can use at any time, to help you learn more about substance use.

  • HealthLink BC
    Call 811 at any time during the day to get information on substance use and support. 
  • Here to Help
    Download a workbook to help you reflect on your substance use.
  • Toward the Heart
    Get more information about the opioid overdose crisis, fentanyl and naloxone, including where to pick up a naloxone kit across BC.
  • Foundry
    Explore alcohol and substance use self-check tools and learn about different types of substances.
  • TAO Self-Help
    Sign up with your UBC al email for tools to help you reflect on your substance use.

Peer support

It might be easier to talk with a trained student about substance use. They may understand what you’re going through and can offer helpful resources.

UBC Student Recovery Community
The UBC Student Recovery Community (SRC) is a safe, welcoming, and inclusive space for students who are in recovery, or curious to explore their relationship with alcohol, drugs, and/or addictive behaviours. 

AMS Peer Support
AMS Peer Support provides free, confidential one-on-one peer support, peer support group sessions, and workshops on mental health and harm reduction.

Professional help

If your substance use is persistent and negatively impacting your life, you can also contact a health professional.

  • Access and Assessment Centre
    Call or visit in person for emergency or non-emergency mental health and substance use services.
  • UBC Counselling Services
    If you’re struggling with substance use to the point that it’s affecting your daily life, it may be helpful to speak with a Wellness Advisor about your concerns.
  • UBC Student Health Service
    Book a medical appointment for your substance use concerns or to learn more about preventing an opioid overdose. 

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