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.


Could your drinking use be a problem?

  1. Do you drink for a quick pick me up?
  2. Do you drink to the point of blacking out?
  3. Do you sometimes drink more than you intended?
  4. Do you find yourself regretting experiences or situations you get into while drinking?
  5. Do you sometimes feel guilty about your alcohol consumption?
  6. Has someone told you that you have an alcohol use problem?
  7. Have you ever been in trouble with the police or other authorities while drinking alcohol?
  8. Have you ever been taken advantage of (sexually) while drinking alcohol?
  9. Have you tried cutting down on your alcohol consumption before but have been unsuccessful?
  10. 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.


What are blackouts?

Blackouts are a definite sign that your brain can no longer tolerate alcohol.

They occur whether you have been drinking 1 year or 20 years, whether you had a few drinks or many, or whether you appear intoxicated or not.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) has short videos of people telling their story of struggling with alcohol use problems and addiction. (Note: you may have to register. Registering is free).

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

Self-Assessment Links

Factors Influencing Alcohol Abuse Problems

  • 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

How to Drink More Responsibly

Eat, eat, eat! 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

Track Your Drinking

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.

Local Meetings



Marijuana Use

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the US

11+ million adults (ages 18-25) used marijuana in the last year

Short Term Effects

Marijuana over-activates the parts of the brain that enables a person to form new memories or shift his or her attentional focus. It also impairs a person’s ability to learn and perform complicated tasks. Finally, it disrupts functioning in brain areas that regulate posture, balance, coordination, and reaction time.

Other effects include:

  • Altered senses
  • Altered sense of time
  • Changes in mood
  • Impaired body movement
  • Difficulty thinking and problem-solving
  • Impaired memory

If too much marijuana or THC is ingested, the person may experience hallucinations, delusions, and psychosis.

All short-term effects of marijuana/cannabis use have demonstrated (in research) to resume to normal levels given the appropriate amount of time (1-2 weeks), meaning most short-term effects will only last while actively using marijuana.

Long Term EFfects

Little research has been able to capture statistically significant long-term effects of marijuana use. However, heavy or chronic use is not recommended for those under the age of 18.

Marijuana use affects brain development. Use of marijuana as a teenager may lead to impaired thinking, memory, and learning functions.


New Zealand Researchers at Duke University

Researchers demonstrated that people who started smoking marijuana heavily in their teens and had an ongoing marijuana use disorder lost an average of 8 IQ points between the ages of 13 and 18.

Physical Effects:

  • Breathing problems
  • Increased heartrate
  • Problems with child development during and after pregnancy

Mental/Cognitive Effects:

  • Temporary hallucinations
  • Temporary paranoia
  • Worsening symptoms in patients diagnosed with schizophrenia

Marijuana has also demonstrated in research to be linked to depression, anxiety, and increased suicidal thoughts.

Treatment REcommendations

If you want or think you need help in stopping or decreasing your marijuana consumption, here 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.

It is communicated regularly via campus signs, newsletters, website, event tickets, and other print materials.

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.

Free Smoking Cessation HElp

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.


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.

OnLine Resources for Smoking Cessation

Prescription Drug Abuse


  • Prescription medications can be just as addicting as illicit drugs
  • Abuse of prescription drugs has doubled in the last decade
  • 25% of drug-related ER admissions are due to the abuse or misuse of prescription medications

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)
  • Central nervous system depressants: used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders (e.g., Valium, Xanax, Nembutal, Seconal)
  • Stimulants: used to treat sleep disorder (i.e., narcolepsy) and/or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (e.g., Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, Dexedrine)

Resources for Treatment

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