For many students starting college, this will be the first time they have lived away from home, and it can be a vulnerable time in their life. You will be entering a new social scene and will be presented with opportunities and experiences that you will never have come across before. It is quite likely you will meet people who use drugs and you will find yourself in new situations were you have tough decisions to make. There are no easy answers to the problems caused by drug use, but having the right information can help. The facts are important in helping you deal with drugs issues.

If you or your friends have any issues or problems, free confidential advice and information is always available from your Students’ Union.

Four basic types of drugs that can change a person’s mood or how they behave.

  • Depressants i.e. Alcohol, Tranquillisers and Solvents.
  • Opiates i.e. Morphine, heroin and methadone
  • Stimulants i.e. Cocaine and amphetamines
  • Hallucinogens i.e. LSD (acid) and magic mushrooms


As a student, the most likely drug that you’ll come across and will more than likely try is alcohol. It’s legal and widely available. Alcohol is a depressant, try and stay within the safe legal limits. Drinking too much alcohol will play havoc with your health, your bank balance and your studying (the reason you came to college!)

1 Unit =½ Pint of beer / cider

Single measure of spirits
Standard glass of wine
Small glass of sherry

Women: 14 units per week is the recommended level.

Men: 20 units per week is the recommended level.

If you’re approaching or are over these limits, it’s time to think about cutting down. See also


Prescribed drugs, meant to be used for a few weeks to help cope with a crisis. If used regularly, they can be physically and psychologically addictive with unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.


Sniffed i.e. glue, gas refills and lighters, some aerosols, some air fresheners, some paint, thinners and correcting fluid. They cause intoxication and occasionally hallucinations. There is a risk of sudden death and long-term use may cause kidney, liver and bone marrow problems.


Can be injected, sniffed or smoked. Users can have a feeling of pleasant drowsiness, however first time users can suffer nausea and vomiting. Regular and prolonged use can cause a wide range of health problems and injecting increases the risk of HIV. It can also cause death. Heroine is highly addictive physically and psychologically.


Can be snorted or (crack) smoked. The effects are similar to those of speed. Users can feel exhausted, nauseous or unable to sleep or relax. Both cocaine and crack are highly psychologically addictive. Long-term effects can be shortness of breath, chest pains, paranoia and damage to the nose.


Usually swallowed of snorted. The drug puts off tiredness, increases alertness and confidence. Tolerance grows quickly, so users need to increase the dosage to get the same effect. Use can result in excessive mood swings, anxiety and confusion. Users will feel tired, hungry and depresses afterwards. If used regularly it can lead to paranoia and hallucinations.


comes in the form of small square impregnated blotting paper usually with a picture on it or in a tiny brown tablet (microdot). Trips can last up to 12 hours and users can have visions of joy and beauty or have a walking nightmare. It can be especially damaging to someone with mental illness. Users can become psychologically dependant.


Grow wild and have similar hallucinogenic effects as LSD. Feelings of nausea, dizziness and vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach pains can be experienced. Magic mushrooms present the same dangers as taking LSD; one danger in particular is picking the wrong ones.


Comes in the form of resin (hash) in a block or strip and is usually smoked in the form of a joint /spliff containing hash and tobacco. Another form of cannabis is grass. It looks like dried herbs and is rolled in the same way. It makes the user feel relaxed, talkative and intoxicated. Cannabis can have a detrimental effect on short-term memory and can affect motivation – causing more problems for your studying! Long-term use can cause respiratory diseases like lung cancer and bronchitis; it can also become psychologically addictive.

See also

These are just a few pointers. For more detailed information and advice contact your Students’ Union Welfare officer.