Substance Use & Abuse

In the following section, you will find information regarding substance use and abuse of alcohol, cannabis/marijuana, tobacco, and prescription medications.

If you are looking for information outside of the above four indicated substances, then please refer to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.


Alcohol consumption causes a number of changes in behavior and physiology and can be specifically harmful for a developing brain. Even low doses significantly impair judgment, coordination, and abstract mental functioning. While there are many positive reasons for drinking alcohol, statistics show that alcohol use is involved in a majority of violent behaviors on college campuses, including sexual assault, vandalism, fights, and incidents of drinking and driving. Continued abuse may lead to permanent damage to vital organs and deterioration of a healthy lifestyle. 

could your drinking use be a problem?

Questions to ask yourself: 

  • Do you drink for a quick pick me up?
  • Do you drink to the point of blacking out?
  • Do you sometimes drink more than you intended?
  • Do you find yourself regretting experiences or situations you get into while drinking?
  • Do you sometimes feel guilty about your alcohol consumption?
  • Has someone told you that you have an alcohol use problem?
  • Have you ever been in trouble with the police or other authorities while drinking alcohol?
  • Have you ever been taken advantage of (sexually) while drinking alcohol?
  • Have you tried cutting down on your alcohol consumption before but have been unsuccessful?
  • Have you injured yourself or someone else while drinking alcohol?

If you answered yes to one or more of the questions above, or if you are concerned about alcohol use, call the Counseling Center at 410-704-2512 and talk to someone about this.

Alcohol Resources and Information 

You may want to take an online, confidential assessment to gain more insight into your alcohol use and patterns.

  • Family history of alcohol and/or drug use and abuse problems
  • Personal history of depression or anxiety
  • Living in an environment that fosters drinking or substance use
  • Working in an environment that fosters drinking or substance use
  • Having friends that drink excessively or promote substance use
  • Body weight is a critical factor in determining how much an individual can safely drink. Eat before, during, and after drinking to help alcohol metabolize faster in your body.

Remember not all drinks are the same! 

One Drink Equals: 

  • 1.5 fl oz of liquor
  • 12 fl oz of beer
  • 8-9 fl oz of malt liquor
  • 5 fl oz of wine

Remembering how much you had to drink can get complicated - especially as time passes. Here are some suggestions to help you track your drinking: 

  • Drinking Tracker Cards
  • Put pennies in your pocket and every time you get a drink, transfer a penny to the other pocket or give away. When you are out of pennies, you are out of drinks!
  • Use your friends. Asking others to help curb your urges may be humiliating at first, but friends and social supports can be a fantastic resource.


See beyond has short videos of people telling their story of struggling with substance use problems and addiction as well as families who have experiences loss from addiction.


The use of marijuana will impair or reduce short-term memory and comprehension, alter sense of time, and reduce coordination and energy level. Users often have a lowered immune system and an increased risk of lung cancer. The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, is stored in the fatty tissues of the brain and reproductive system for a minimum of 28 to 30 days, and possibly longer for chronic users. 


Marijuana Use

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the US with approximately 22.2 million users each month. 

Research shows that about 1 in 10 marijuana users will become addicted. For people who begin using before the age of 18, that number rises to 1 in 6.

could your marijuana use be a problem?

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you ever get high alone?
  • Do you plan your life around your marijuana use?
  • Is it hard for you to imagine a life without marijuana?
  • Do you find that your friends are determined by your marijuana use?
  • Do you use marijuana to avoid dealing with your problems or to cope with your feelings?
  • Has your marijuana use led to financial difficulties?
  • Have you ever failed to keep promises you made about cutting down or controlling your use of marijuana?
  • Has your use of marijuana caused problems with your health, memory, concentration, or motivation?
  • Have friends or relatives ever complained that your using is damaging your relationship with them?
  • When your stash is nearly empty, do you feel anxious or worried about how to get more?


If you want to learn more about marijuana or are interested in stopping or decreasing use, below are some resources. 


Smoke Free TU

Towson University’s smoke free policy prohibits all forms of smoking, including electronic cigarettes, in all campus buildings and on all exterior groups.

This policy has been in effect since August 1, 2010 following two years of development and input from students, faculty, and staff.

The Benefits of Quitting Smoking 

After 20 minutes

Your blood pressure and heart rate will drop back down to normal.

After 8 hours

Nicotine and carbon monoxide levels will drop by half.

Oxygen levels will return to normal.

After 48 hours

The change of having a heart attack will have decreased.

All nicotine will have left your body.

Your sense of taste and smell will return to a normal level.

After 72 hours

Breathing becomes easier.

Bronchial tubes begin to relax and energy levels increase.

After 2 Weeks

Your circulation will increase and will continue to improve over the next 10 weeks.

After 3-9 Months

Coughing, wheezing, and breathing problems will dissipate as your lung capacity improves by 10%.

After 1 Year

Your risk of a heart attack will have dropped by half.

After 5 Years

Your risk of having a stroke returns to that of a non-smoker.

After 10 Years

Your risk of lung cancer will have returned tot hat of a non-smoker.

After 15 Years

Your risk of heart attack will have returned to that of a non-smoker.


E-cigarettes are electronic devices that heat a liquid and produce an aerosol, or mix of small particles in the air. There is a myth that e-cigarettes are more safe than traditional cigarettes; however they contain many toxic chemicals that are potentially more addictive than cigarettes.

According to Monitoring the future, past 30 day use of e-cigarettes increased by 50% in the past year. Highest rates of these products are seen in people aged 18-24. 



A variety of free classes are offered throughout Baltimore County to help residents quit smoking. These programs use a positive behavior change approach to help participants develop their own plan on how to quit

Free nicotine replacement patches, gum, lozenges, and Chantix (with prescription) is available to those attending cessation classes.

Find classes nearby and get the tools, resources, and support to quit smoking.

Towson University's Health Center also provides free information and counseling for smoking cessation. 


Prescription Drug Abuse


  • Prescription medications can be just as addicting as illicit drugs
  • 75% of college students have never misused a prescription medication
  • Students who misuse prescription stimulants as study aids have lower GPAs

It's not worth the risk - even if it's legal

Most Commonly Abused Prescriptions

  • Opioids: used to treat pain (e.g., Oxycontin, Vicodin, Percodan, Dilaudid)
  • Depressants and sedatives: used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders (e.g., Valium, Xanax, Nembutal, Seconal)
  • Stimulants: used to treat sleep disorders (i.e., narcolepsy) and/or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (e.g., Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, Dexedrine)

Use safe medication practices with all prescriptions:

  • Only use prescription medications as directed by a health professional
  • Medication affects friends differently--never share or use someone else's medication
  • Secure medications in lockable spaces and safely dispose of them
  • What others see you doing matters--model safe medication practices for friends and family

Resources for Treatment