Substance Use at GW
The 3 most commonly used substances At gw
of GW students surveyed reported using or trying alcohol
of GW students surveyed reported using or trying cannabis
of GW students surveyed reported using or trying tobacco
*Data collected from the Spring 2022 National College Health Assessment
Why Do People Use Substances?
To belong or fit in socially
To mitigate emotional or physical pain
To perform better in daily life or activities
Curiosity for the experience
Fast Facts: Substance Use at GW
Fast Facts: Alcohol Use at GW
Based on Spring 2022 NCHA Data56.5% of GW students reported alcohol use on a weekly basis Almost half (48.4%) of GW students drink with the intention of getting drunk One in four (27.9%) GW students reported binge drinking within the past two weeks
Compared to others in their age group, full-time college students tend to drink more. Members of sororities and fraternities, as well as student-athletes, are generally at higher risk of alcohol misuse. Nationally, among college students who drink, roughly one in three report binge drinking in the past month (SAMHSA, 2021).
Understanding Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)’s effects on your body and wellbeing is very important to ensure a safe experience. BAC can vary based on the number of drinks you’ve had and the speed of your consumption. Learn more by trying out this BAC calculator and check out the table below.
- One in four (26.7%) GW students reported doing something they later regretted when drinking alcohol
- One in five (21.9%) GW students who reported alcohol use were at moderate risk of developing/having an alcohol-use disorder
- One in 10 (10.7%) GW students reported having unprotected sex when drinking alcohol
- One in 10 (10.3%) GW students reported health, social, legal, or financial problems arising once or twice as a result of their alcohol use
- One in eight (12.3%) GW students reported failing to meet normal expectations once or twice because of their alcohol use
Fast Facts: Marijuana Use at GW
Based on Spring 2022 NCHA Data21.1% of GW students reported marijuana use on a weekly basis, while 17.3% used daily or almost daily Over half (52.6%) of GW students who reported marijuana use were at moderate risk of developing/having a marijuana-use disorder Nearly one in 10 (9.6%) GW students reported health, social, legal, or financial problems arising once or twice as a result of their marijuana use
“Approximately 1 in 10 people who use marijuana will become addicted. When they start before age 18, the rate of addiction rises to 1 in 6.” - SAMHSA, 2022
REMINDER: Although legal in DC (for people 21+), marijuana use/possession remains prohibited on and off-campus for GW students under 21 and prohibited on-campus for students of all ages.
Cannabis, or marijuana use, is on the rise nationally among all age groups, with young adults (aged 18-24) showing the highest rate of use. Marijuana is an addictive substance and can negatively impact brain health, mental health, athletic performance, productivity, and driving, among other activities (SAMHSA, 2022).
- Tobacco & Nicotine
Fast Facts: Tobacco Use at GW
Based on Spring 2022 NCHA Data11.1% of GW students reported tobacco use on a weekly basis, while 24.6% used daily or almost daily E-cigarrettes / vape products are the most popular tobacco products among GW students Nearly one in six (15%) GW students who use tobacco products reported trying and failing to control, cut down, or stop use
Smoking in any form (think: cigarettes, vaping, hookahs) can be damaging to your body and development. Nearly every organ in the body can be impacted by tobacco/nicotine, and smoking is a leading cause of lung, mouth, throat, bladder, pancreatic, and kidney cancer. Secondhand smoke can also put those around you at risk of negative health consequences (SAMHSA, 2019).
If you or a peer is considering quitting, help is available. Check out these five tips for handling withdrawal and/or try a free, anonymous text messaging program like This is Quitting for additional support.
- Nearly one in six (15%) GW students who use tobacco products reported a friend or relative expressing concern about their use
- Nearly half (49.5%) of GW students who reported tobacco use were at moderate risk of developing/having a tobacco-use disorder
Fast Facts: Vaping at GW
Based on Spring 2022 NCHA DataFour in five (82.9%) students who reported tobacco use had vaped, in comparison to other products like cigarettes, hookah, chewing tobacco, and cigars.
At GW, e-cigarettes or vape products (e.g., Juul) are the most popular method of tobacco use.
Vaping is not harmless. Most vaping products/devices contain addictive substances such as nicotine or marijuana that can interfere with brain development and make quitting/stopping use very difficult. They also often contain toxic chemicals that can significantly damage your lungs through the inhaling process, such as formaldehyde, diacetyl, and acrolein (SAMHSA, 2021).
Have you been thinking about quitting, or been trying and having a hard time? Check out these five tips for handling withdrawal and consider trying a free, anonymous text messaging program like This is Quitting for additional support.
Fast Facts: Cocaine Use at GW
Based on Spring 2022 NCHA Data5.4% of GW students in the NCHA survey sample reported previous cocaine use While cocaine use was more prevalent among men, women were more likely to experience urges to use
College-aged students in the U.S. generally have the highest rates of cocaine use as compared to other age groups (CDC, 2018). The illegal substance is increasingly mixed with other synthetic opioids (e.g., fentanyl) that further raise the risk of overdose (NIDA, 2021). As a powerful, addictive stimulant, cocaine can produce an almost immediate sense of extreme happiness, energy, and alertness, but with that can come irritability and paranoia (NIDA, 2021). If you are concerned about your own or a friend’s cocaine use, help is available. Check out these options here.
- 6.9% of GW students who reported use of cocaine use on a monthly basis, while roughly one in three (34.9%) used once or twice in a three-month period
- 17.2% of GW students who reported cocaine use were at moderate risk of developing/having a stimulant-use disorder
Fast Facts: Inhalant Use at GW
Based on Spring 2022 NCHA Data5.9% of GW students in the NCHA survey sample reported previous inhalant use One in four (25%) GW students who reported use of inhalants used once or twice in a three-month period
Inhalants generally consist of common household products—such as spray paints, markers, glues, and cleaning fluids—that contain contain dangerous substances with psychoactive (mind-altering) properties when inhaled (NIDA, 2020). People often experience a temporary high, dizziness, and/or lack of speech and body coordination as the inhalant affects the central nervous system. Learn more about short-term and long-term health effects of inhalant use here.
- 15.4% of students with previous use reported experiencing urges on a weekly basis
- 18.8% of GW students who reported inhalant use were at moderate risk of developing/having an inhalant-use disorder
Fast Facts: Hallucinogenic Use at GW
Based on Spring 2022 NCHA DataNearly one in four (23.6%) GW students who reported hallucinogen use were at moderate risk of developing/having a hallucinogen-use disorder Most commonly, GW students with a history of hallucinogen use experience urges that occur once or twice in a three-month period (39.1%), while 4.3% and 8.7% have urges weekly and monthly, respectively
Hallucinogens are capable of altering your brain chemistry, and this group of drugs can be unpredictable and addictive. Depending on the individual and the type of hallucinogenic, a person might feel its effects for as long as 12 hours. In addition to hallucinations, side effects and symptoms can include nausea/vomiting, loss of appetite, mixed senses (e.g., “seeing” sounds or “hearing” colors), excessive sweating, paranoia, weight loss, memory loss, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, persistent psychosis/hallucinations, speech problems, social withdrawal, and disorganization (SAMHSA, 2020).
- Prescription Stimulants
Fast Facts: Stimulant Use at GW
Based on Spring 2022 NCHA Data5.1% of GW students who reported use of prescription stimulants use on a weekly basis, while 35.9% used once or twice in a three-month period The majority (87.5%) of GW students who reported using stimulants had not been prescribed the medication (i.e., nonmedical use)
There is a common misconception that prescription stimulants will make people smarter, but the fact of the matter is that these medications do not improve school performance for people who aren’t diagnosed with ADHD. Misuse and overuse can lead to heart, nerve, and stomach issues. Other signs to look out for include increased blood pressure and heart rate, increased breathing, dangerously high body temperature with sweating, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, seizures, irritability, rapid speech, and difficulty concentrating (SAMHSA, 2020).
- One in 10 (10.8%) GW students who reported stimulant use were at moderate risk of developing/having a stimulant-use disorder
- Sedatives or Sleeping Pills
Fast Facts: Sedative Use at GW
Based on Spring 2022 NCHA Data3.9% of GW students in the NCHA survey sample reported previous nonmedical sedative use 4.8% of GW students who reported use of sedatives use on a weekly basis, while 4.8% used monthly and 19% used once or twice in a three-month period
At GW, reported rates of sedative misuse are low (i.e., nonmedical use of prescription sedatives). However, it’s still important to know why a person might misuse in the first place, which is most commonly to 1) help with sleep, 2) relax or relieve tension, and 3) feel good (SAMHSA, 2015). Like other prescription medications, sedatives are safe to use as long as they are prescribed to you and part of an ongoing treatment plan with a medical professional. If you or a friend are experiencing sleep or other issues, consider reaching out to the Student Health Center as a first step.
- 19% of GW students who reported sedative use were at moderate risk of developing/having a sedative-use disorder
Drug-Free Schools & Communities Act
To be eligible to receive federal contracts, the George Washington University is required by law to distribute the Annual Drug Free Schools and Communities Act Letter (PDF) each year.
Additionally, the law requires the university to conduct a biennial review of its alcohol and other drugs (AOD) programs and prepare a report. If you would like to review the report, please contact the Office of Ethics, Compliance, and Risk at (202) 994-3386 or by email at [email protected].