University Health and Counseling Services

Substance Misuse Prevention


The University of Southern Maine has several resources available to help you reduce your risk, keep yourself safe and protect the things in your life that matter the most to you!


  • Wellness Visits- A Wellness visit is a supportive educational visit with a clinician to gather information that can help you lower your risks and make better choices when it comes to the use of alcohol and/or other substances.


  • Counseling and/or Health Visits on the Portland or Gorham campuses


  • Monthly Prevention Newsletters


  • Brief Alcohol Screening Intervention for College Students (BASICS)- BASICS is a non-judgmental opportunity to look at the pros and cons of alcohol and/or marijuana. Learn tips to reduce your risk, and to protect the things you value!


 More about BASICS- A student may be assigned BASICS through the Office of Community Standards and Mediation following the violation of USMs Alcohol and Drug policy. This sanction will provide the student with the necessary information needed to identify and reduce their level of risk.

Students can seek a BASICS visit on their own to determine their own personal level of risk and learn how to begin making low risk choices, prevent problems, and protect all they value and aspire for.

To request a BASICS visit, please contact Health and Counseling and ask to be connected with the Coordinator of Clinical Substance Use services or the BASICS facilitator.

BASICS was acknowledged as an evidence based program in the 2016 publication of the Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health: Facing Addiction in America;

Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS) is an example of a brief motivational intervention for which results have been positive. BASICS is designed to help students reduce alcohol misuse and the negative consequences of their drinking. Follow-up studies of students who used BASICS have shown reductions in drinking quantity in the general college population, among fraternity members, with heavy drinkers who volunteered to use BASICS, and among those who were mandated to engage in the program from college disciplinary bodies.106,162,

To learn more:Surgeon Generals Report Alcohol, Drugs and Health



What is a standard drink?

A Standard drink contains a little over a ½ ounce (0.6) of pure alcohol

12 ounce beer (5% alcohol)

8-9 fluid ounces Malt Liquor (7% alcohol)

5 ounce glass of wine (12% alcohol)

1 ½ ounce shot of 80 proof liquor (40 % alcohol)

The body can only process .5 oz. per hour- which means it can take a little over an hour for the body to process one standard drink.


What is Binge Drinking?

Binge Drinking is a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 quickly.  For a typical adult male  5 or more drinks (male), or 4 or more drinks (female) in about 2 hours (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services- NIH)-

Binge drinking is risky and one episode of Binge Drinking can have severe consequences:

  • Impairment Problem(s) – An impairment problem can happen in one episode of drinking and can be many things. Some examples of an impairment problem include: severe injury of self or others, assaults, accidents, car crashes and many others. One night of impairment can have severe long lasting consequences.
  • Risk of Alcohol poisoning
  • Health Problems- drinking too much on a single occasion can damage the heart, causing problems that include: Cardiomyopathy – Stretching and drooping of heart muscle, Arrhythmias – Irregular heartbeat, Stroke, High blood pressure  (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism)
  • Tolerance is being raised. Contrary to what many people think, High Tolerance is NOT a positive quality. Each time an individual’s tolerance is raised it moves a person towards addiction, a severe substance use disorder.

 Binge Drinking & Alcohol Blackout


Did you know?

Drinking on an empty stomach

When an individual drinks on an empty stomach, the alcohol will be absorbed into the body quicker, increasing impairment. This increases the risk for problems. To reduce risks, alcohol must be consumed when the stomach is not empty.


Body Fluid

Our bodies are primarily made up of water. A person with less body fluid will become more impaired, because they will develop a higher concentration of alcohol in their blood.

Body fluid is influenced by age, gender and body mass (size).

Body Mass refers to lean muscle mass and not body fat. The more lean muscle mass, the more body fluid.

Women generally have less body fluid than men, even if they are of the same body weight. This is why women generally become impaired quicker and the effects of the alcohol lasts longer.

Younger adolescents and older adults generally have less body fluid. For younger adolescents their bodies are generally smaller in stature and have less lean muscle mass. Older adults generally have less body fluid and when they use alcohol it will lead to a higher concentration of alcohol in their blood.


Illness or Tiredness

A person who is recovering from illness and/or is experiencing tiredness will experience greater impairment from the use of alcohol or drugs. A student who has been up studying and not getting enough sleep is susceptible to increased impairment and risk.



Many medications contain labels that warn not to consume alcohol, drive or operate machinery while taking the medication. It is important to pay attention to this warning since many medications cause impairment. Adding alcohol or other substances can increase impairment and be dangerous.

Drinking alcohol with sleeping medications, prescription drugs, antihistamines, aspirin, and other medications is risky and causes increased impairment.




  • Being 21 or older
  • Know what a standard drink is
  • Thinking about whether you will drink, what you will drink before the party
  • Know your limits and stick with them
  • Eating a meal before drinking
  • Eat while drinking
  • Drinking no more than one drink per hour
  • Always know what you are drinking
  • Never leave your drink unattended
  • Alternating alcohol-free drinks throughout the  evening
  • Hydrate- drink water
  • Knowing how you will get home safely before you go out
  • Stay with your friends
  • Carry a cup of soda or water with you at all times (You already have a drink)
  • Don’t mix Alcohol and Drugs OR Alcohol and Medications
  • Avoid drinking games and shots
  • Don’t mix alcohol with energy drinks
  • Never mix alcohol/drugs and driving
  • Abstaining is the safest choice


For more information on Low Risk Choices: Rethinking Drinking


Alcohol Poisoning


The signs of alcohol poisoning

  • mental confusion-
  • stupor- near unconsciousness –daze- unconscious
  • not being able to be roused or awakened
  • pale or blue  tinge to skin
  • low body temperature
  • vomiting –repeatedly or while sleeping – no gag reflex
  • hypothermia- cold skin
  • severe hydration from vomiting can lead to permanent brain damage/ seizures
  • Hypoglycemia can lead to seizures - Excessive alcohol consumption. Drinking heavily without eating can block your liver from releasing stored glucose into your bloodstream, causing hypoglycemia.


Danger Signs of alcohol poisoning

  • incoherent and unable to make rational responses
  • is unable to stand or walk
  • is poorly aware of his/her surroundings
  • has difficulty breathing- slow, shallow, irregular breathing--less than 8 breaths per minute-10 seconds or more between breaths
  • has passed out- unresponsive
  • has fever or chills
  • unable to stop vomiting


Take Action


WAKE – Wake the person

TURN – Turn them on their side to prevent choking or drowning

CALL – Call for emergency medical assistance

STAY – Stay with the person until paramedics arrive


Alcohol Resources


Alcohol Overdose Fact Sheet

Alcohol Myths

Facts about Alcohol Overdose

What to know about Alcohol and Brain Damage 

Alcohol and You: An Interactive Body

Every organ in the body is affected by alcohol consumption. On this site you can learn the health consequences for each vital organ.

 Alcohol Calorie Calculator

BAC Calculator

This webpage from the Cleveland Clinic allows you to calculate your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). Please keep in mind that many things can impact Blood Alcohol Concentrates. The following  variables can include:

Body Water, Illness, Tiredness, Age, Gender, Body Mass and composition, Food Intake, Medications, Other substances, Tolerance and Biology

 Alcohol Addiction Center Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Calculator


Party Smarter

Don’t miss the night and the fun – take some simple steps to “party smarter” whether you’re out at bars, clubs, restaurants, or at a friends’ home or in your home.


Many post on social media under the influence of drugs and regret it!

"Posting on social media, texting, and apprearing in photos while high" [or intoxicated] is prevelent among young people. Many who join in this social venture, later share regret.  


How Much Does Alcohol Harm People Besides the Drinker?

This article in Psychology Today reveals alarming details of the "secondhand harms" of drinking



 Alcohol Screening.Org- Self Assessment

Find out how your drinking compares to others and Access resources nationwide


Many People Don't Know the Dangers of Alcohol 

 Interesting article and podcast from VOA Learning English- August 2019


Alcohol and Energy Drinks

A growing trend among young adults and teens is mixing energy drinks with alcohol. About 25 percent of college students consume alcohol with energy drinks, and they binge-drink significantly more often than students who don’t mix them... 42 percent of all energy-drink related emergency department visits involved combining these beverages with alcohol or drugs (including illicit drugs, like marijuana, as well as central nervous system stimulants, like Ritalin or Adderall)”

  • Large amounts of caffeine may cause serious heart and blood vessel problems such as heart rhythm disturbances and increases in heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Caffeine use may be associated with palpitations, anxiety, sleep problems, digestive problems, elevated blood pressure, and dehydration.
  • Young adults who combine caffeinated drinks with alcohol may not be able to tell how intoxicated they are, increasing risk for alcohol poisoning and overdose.
  • Many energy drinks contain as much as 25–50 g of simple sugars; this may be problematic for people who are diabetic or prediabetic. (National Institute for Health)


Alcohol and Caffeine Fact Sheet




10 Things You Should Know About Cannabis- The Grass Isn't Always Greener


Facts about Edibles

  • Marijuana can be infused into just about any food.
  • 1 Marijuana Cookie or Brownie May contain 6 doses-
  • When marijuana is eaten, it is absorbed through the stomach and intestines and processed in the liver. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours before the individual feels the euphoric effects.
  • Once an individual ingests marijuana they cannot adjust the dose. Eating marijuana increases risk for overdose, whereas when a person smokes it they feel it right away and can adjust to the amount they are using.
  • Individuals don’t think they have gotten high and ingest more of the edible.
  • Slower onset and the high may last longer
  • Higher risk, the user often uses more than intended.
  • Use other drugs or drink alcohol while they are ingesting the edible

Some individuals think using edibles is better for them than smoking and do not understand the negative consequences that could occur. Edibles can produce intense highs with negative side effects which may include;

  • Confusion Disorientation
  • Hallucinations Tachycardia and impaired motor abilities

Consuming marijuana has the potential to mix with other drugs and substances leading to unexpected results.

For More information:

CDC.GOV- Marijuana Facts- edibles


Marijuana Resources


The Reward Circuit- How the Brain Responds to Marijuana

This video from NIDA/NIH  explains the brain reward system and the biochemical processes that occur during marijuana use. The video clip is a little over 3 minutes in length.


Drug Facts- Marijuana- National Institute on Drug Abuse


Marijuana: How can it Affect Your Health


Long Term Marijuana Use is Associated With Health Problems Later in Life


 Infographic- Marijuana and Prescription Drug Misuse Among College Students


Marijuana Use among College Students 


E-Cigarettes and Vaping


Think you understand Tobacco and Nicotine? Learn More Here:  Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products

Get the Facts from National Institute on Drug Abuse on Electronic Cigarettes

CDC~ Infographic: Electronic Cigarettes- Whats the Bottom Line

What Physicians Should know about Electronic Nicotine Delivery System ENDS: FACT Sheet for Physicians

Patient information Series from the American Thoracic Society: Vaping Electronic Delivery System

Understanding the 2016 Surgeon General’s Report on Youth and Electronic Cigarettes: What Clinicians Need to Know 

Are you currently vaping, and want help to quit? Click Here!

 American Academy of Pediatrcs: ENDS Handout for Clinicians

For Parents: Partnership for Drug Free Kids- What you Need to Know and How To Talk with your Kids about Vaping

Know the Risks~ E-Cigarettes & Young People- Watch the 30 second video on this page- Health Risks of E-Cigarettes





Free Press Article,  Is JUUL Cool?  submitted to the Free Press by Malinda Scannell, Nurse Practitioner, University of Southern Maine Health and Counseling~ Published by the Free Press October 2018



Smart Drugs and Study Drugs


Healthy people, or those with ADHD who take excessive amounts of these drugs, increase their dopamine and other neurotransmitters to abnormal levels.

Wakefulness, memory, and concentration can be increased however the benefits are often outweighed by the negative effects such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Disorganized thinking.
  • The “jitters.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that students who abuse study drugs actually tend to have lower GPAs than those who do not take them.

  • In addition to having little to no beneficial effects for people who do not have ADHD, prescription stimulants have many detrimental health effects when they are misused. These include:
  • Increases in blood pressure and heart rate, which can cause cardiovascular problems including stroke.
  • Decreased sleep.
  • Appetite suppression and weight loss.
  • Overall decline in health.
  • Chronic abuse can also cause paranoia and other mental disturbances in some users.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        


Why You Should Skip Adderall as a Study Drug: Unless you have ADHD, it's risky and not very effective. Plus, there are better alternatives.

To Read Article: Consumer Reports Article



Opiates and Opioids

The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains, Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others.

Opiates are derived from the Opium Poppy which include Morphine, Codeine, and Heroin.  Opioids that are synthetic or semi synthetic  include Methadone, Percocet, Percodan, OxyContin (oxycodone), Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab (hydrocodone), Demerol (pethidine), Dilaudid (hydromorphone), Duragesic (fentanyl) are Opioids.

The term Opioids is now used to describe the entire family of opiates including natural, synthetic and semi-synthetic.

  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  • OxyContin
  • Percocet
  • Hydrocodone
  • Vicodin
  • Lortab
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl


The Short Term Effects from Opioids includes, Feelings of euphoria, Pain relief, Drowsiness, and Sedation.

The Side Effects are Drowsiness, Lethargy, Respiratory depression, Nausea and Paranoia.


The Long Term Effects

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Abdominal distention and bloating.
  • Constipation
  • Liver damage (especially prevalent in misuse of drugs that combine opiates with acetaminophen).
  • Brain damage due to hypoxia, resulting from respiratory depression.
  • Development of tolerance
  • Dependence- Severe Opioid Use Disorder


To Learn more watch this short video (Duration: 01:54): 

Science Says: Why Are Opioids so Addictive- VIDEO

 More Resources:

How to Use Naloxone to Reverse Opioid Overdose and Save Lives

Nearly Half Opioid Related Overdose Deaths Involve Fetanyl

Medication-Assisted Treatment Improves Outcomes for Patients With Opioid Use Disorder

 Opioids Information NIDA

The Surgeon General’s Spotlight on Opioids

Preventing Opioid Overdose



Other Names for Cocaine~     Coke,  Blow,  Crack,  Rock,  Snow

  • Snorted through the nose
  • Rubbed into the gums
  • Injected into the bloodstream

A Speedball is a combined injection of cocaine and heroin. Cocaine can be smoked in the form of a rock crystal (also called "freebase cocaine"). The crystal is heated to produce vapors that are inhaled into the lungs. This form of cocaine is called Crack, which refers to the crackling sound of the rock as it's heated.


Short-term physiological effects of cocaine use include:  constricted blood vessels; dilated pupils; and increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure.

Large amounts of cocaine can lead to bizarre, erratic, and violent behavior.

Some cocaine users report feelings of restlessness, irritability, anxiety, panic, and paranoia. Some may experience tremors, vertigo, and muscle twitches.

Severe medical complications can occur with cocaine use, including: cardiovascular effects, including disturbances in heart rhythm and heart attacks; neurological effects, including headaches, seizures, strokes, and coma; and gastrointestinal complications, including abdominal pain and nausea.

 In rare instances, sudden death can occur on the first use of cocaine or unexpectedly thereafter. Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizures

To Read More: NIH Drug Facts- Cocaine


 For Parents


Fall Semester—A Time for Parents To Discuss the Risks of College Drinking

Talking with your College Bound Student about Alcohol

 Partnership for Drug Free Kids

 Growing Up Drug Free: A Parents Guide to Prevention

Parent Resources: Downloadable Tools


 Other Resources


Campus Drug Prevention

9 Facts About Addiction People Usually Get Wrong