Alcohol and other drugs

Overview

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

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

While abstinence carries the lowest risk, if you choose to use alcohol or other drugs, it’s important to make a plan to reduce your risks.

Alcohol

Cannabis

Cannabis impacts the brain’s attention, memory and learning networks. Using cannabis before class, while studying for a test, or when doing coursework can affect your ability to retain information, concentrate, and ultimately, succeed in your academics. 

Cannabis use may increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses - the higher the use, the greater the risk.

Illegal drugs

Fentanyl is a strong painkiller, or opioid, that is being mixed into illegal drugs in Vancouver. Fentanyl has been found in drugs like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA, and ecstasy. 

Fentanyl has also been found in drugs resembling prescription pills, such as Percocet or Tylenol 3. A very small amount of fentanyl can be fatal.

If you use or intend to use illegal drugs, make a plan to reduce your risks. It’s strongly recommended to carry naloxone in case of a fentanyl overdose. Make sure you know how to recognize and respond to the signs of an overdose

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

Drugging without consent

Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol), gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), gamma-butyrolactone (GBL), and/or ketamine – historically known as “date rape drugs.” Most of these drugs are colourless, odourless and tasteless and you may not know at the time that you have been exposed to them.

When exposed, symptoms may peak in about 2 hours. Some symptoms of these drugs include:

  • Dizziness
  • Problems talking or slurred speech
  • Trouble moving or controlling your muscles
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Very slow or very fast heartbeat
  • Sleepiness
  • Confusion
  • Trouble breathing
  • Passing out
  • Memory loss

Alcohol can further exacerbate these symptoms.

If you believe that you may have been drugged and/or sexually assaulted, seek medical help immediately. If you feel like you are in immediate danger, call 911. It’s important that you don’t bathe or change your clothes before going to the hospital.

Steps you can take

Drugging is most commonly administered through drinks. Some steps that you can take to protect yourself include:

  • Being aware of what you are drinking
  • Don’t accept drinks from other people
  • Open drinks yourself and never let them out of your sight
  • Don’t drink more than you want to or pressure your friends to drink more than they want to
  • Look out for your friends and have them look out for you
  • Get help right away if you feel you have been drugged

If you feel you have been drugged

  1. Go to your nearest hospital immediately or call 911.
  2. Visit the Sexual Violence and Prevention Response Office (SVPRO) website to seek further help and information.

If you choose not to use alcohol or drugs

Studies have shown that 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 or use cannabis and other drugs. 

If you choose not to use substances - whether it’s for one night or regularly - it’s helpful to make a plan for communicating your choice to others.

  • Work out where you stand on substance use
    Knowing your own decisions and thoughts makes it easier to stay true to yourself.

  • Prepare yourself beforehand
    Think through how you want to respond and behave. It may help to discuss your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust.

  • Try to understand the reasons
    Consider who is offering you the substance and think about why they’re doing so. Friends should understand if you say no, while people you don’t know very well may have other opinions.

  • Say “no” firmly and clearly
    State your decision honestly, without making a big deal about it. If they try to persuade you, you can walk away from the conversation. 

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.

When to seek help

You may want to seek help if alcohol or drug use is impacting your day-to-day functioning 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 back your use of alcohol and/or other drugs?

Apps & 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 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 alumni 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.

AMS Speakeasy
Drop by the AMS Nest and get free, confidential, one-on-one support for a variety of challenges. 

AMS Vice
Join a peer dialogue session or find a mentor to get support with substance or technology use. 

Professional help

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

Access and Assessment Centre
Call or visit in person for emergency or non-emergency mental health and substance use services.

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. 

24/7 services

Alcohol & Drug Information and Referral Service
Call for free, confidential information, or for referrals to education, prevention, and treatment services for any type of substance use concerns.

Empower Me
Receive counselling and life coaching for a variety of topics, free for all students.