Risks and Support for Alcohol and Drug Abuse

College and graduate school is a busy time, and it’s the period in life when we are the healthiest. Even so, social pressures, the availability of alcohol, drugs, and unhealthful food, and stress can result in adverse outcomes that may limit our ability to stay safe, healthy, and thrive.

Physical Activity

Try to aim to get 2½ hours of physical activity a week. While it’s hard to fit into your schedule between classes, studying, and extra-curricular activities such as work, clubs, and athletics, it will increase your metabolism, boost energy levels, manage stress, help you sleep, and enhance mental capacity.[1] As a Trinity Student, you have unlimited access to the Trinity Center, which is home to our NCAA Division III athletic programs and has an aerobics studio, track, tennis courts, basketball arena, and six-lane, 25-yard pool. Zumba, Yoga, Tai Chi, or Meditation classes are just some of the offerings where you can meet new friends and make for great study breaks!  (Not to mention, stave off the “Freshman Fifteen”)

Stay Healthy!

  • Get vaccinated against meningitis, human papillomavirus (HPV), and annual influenza (flu). These are needed throughout your college and post-college life to stay healthy![2]

Prevent STDs:

Nearly ½ of the total 20 million sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) diagnosed annually in the U.S. are among people aged 15-24 years. Women can suffer long term effects of these diseases, including pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, tubal scarring, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain.[3]

  • According to the CDC, about 1 in 4 (26 percent) of all new HIV infections is among youth ages 13 to 24 years. About 4 in 5 of these infections occur in males.[4]

Steps to Protect Yourself:

  • Always use latex male or female condoms, which can reduce the risk of transmission of some STDs when used consistently and correctly. You can get condoms at the Health and Wellness Center (4th Floor Main Hall Room 461)
  • In the event of an EMERGENCY, the Department of Public Safety (Main Hall B-8) is open and staffed 24/7, which provides safety escorts in addition to providing campus safety round the clock. A Threat Assessment Team is always ready if someone’s actions, words, or writing makes you feel threatened or concerned for your well-being or that of others. Blue Light Phones are also available in both residential facilities (Kerby and Cuvilly) in addition to strategic locations throughout Trinity campus. Phone: 202-884-9111

Alcohol and Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is a dangerous phenomenon that costs the lives of nearly 2,000 college students annually. Binge Drinking is a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men – consumed in about 2 hours.[5]

What is a Drink?

To avoid binge drinking and its consequences, college students (and all people who drink) are advised to track the number of drinks they consume over a given period of time. That is why it is important to know exactly what counts as a drink, though be aware that a “standard” drink amount does not necessarily reflect customary serving sizes.   An alternative method in consuming alcoholic beverages is to alternate the non-alcoholic beverage for the alcoholic beverage to reduce the effect of the alcoholic beverage.  Remember, alcohol can affect your inhibitions and increase the likelihood of sexual assault, motor vehicle accidents, and other unsafe situations.

In the United States, a standard drink is one that contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in:

  • 12 ounces of beer with 5 percent alcohol content
  • 5 ounces of wine with 12 percent alcohol content
  • 5 ounces of distilled spirits with 40 percent alcohol content (80-proof) (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey).[6]

Heavy Drinking is defined as consuming 8 or more drinks per week for women and for men 15 or more drinks per week.  Moderate Drinking is defined drinking as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men.[7]

 Drinking Resources

  • You can make an appointment with the counselor at the Health & Wellness Center by calling 202-884-9615 or emailing healthcenter@trinitydc.edu.
  • Trinity’s Health and Wellness Center will provide confidential assistance to any person on campus who seeks help for a drug or alcohol issue. Such assistance might include direct consultation and treatment or reference to healthcare professionals outside of Trinity.[8]  Employees should use their own physicians and insurance where possible, and students may use the Health Center or their own physicians as well depending on their insurance and health needs.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services publishes extensive information on the harmful effects of the abuse of drugs and alcohol, see https://www.samhsa.gov/ [9]
  • College AIM (Alcohol Intervention Matrix) – is a new resource to help schools address harmful and underage student drinking. Developed with leading college alcohol researchers and staff, it is an easy-to-use and comprehensive tool to identify effective alcohol interventions. https://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/CollegeAIM/

DC Resources

  • Assessment and Referral Center (ARC): ARC provides same day assessment and referral for individuals seeking treatment for substance use disorders.  To refer to the appropriate program, qualified clinicians conduct a comprehensive assessment that includes the nature of the addiction, use history, any mental health care needs, and overall health status. It also offers detoxification, treatment including medication assisted treatment, individual and group counseling, self-help and recovery activities, and, in some cases, residential treatment services.
  • DBH Access Helpline 1(888)7WE-HELP or 1-888-793-4357 : A 24/7 service that offers certified behavioral healthcare providers who can refer a caller to immediate help or ongoing care. The Access Helpline can activate mobile crisis teams to respond to adults and children who are experiencing a psychiatric or emotional crisis and are unable or unwilling to travel to receive behavioral health services.
  • AA Washington DC, a state-wide recovery resource devoted to supporting the men and women of Washington DC. AA Washington DC helps individuals struggling with alcoholism find the help they need on a local basis. Discover Washington DC Alcoholics Anonymous meetings per county or city, and take the next step to overcome alcohol addiction at: https://alcoholicsanonymous.com/aa-meetings/washington-dc/

Alcohol Use under 21

  • Under District of Columbia law, persons under age 21 are prohibited from possessing, drinking, purchasing or attempting to purchase an alcoholic beverage. Persons are also prohibited from falsely representing their age in an attempt to purchase alcohol or enter an establishment where alcohol is served. Violations of this law may result in a fine of up to $1,000 and suspension of driving privileges for up to one year (D.C. Code § 25-1002).
  • Persons who purchase, sell or in any other way deliver alcoholic beverages to persons under 21 may be fined up to $5,000 and/or imprisoned for up to one year (D.C. Code §§ 25-781, 25-785).

Marijuana and Substance Use

 The District of Columbia has decriminalized the use of marijuana (up to two ounces) for adult persons over twenty-one (21) years of age; however, “federal law continues to prohibit the possession or use of any amount of marijuana. As a result, federal law enforcement officers may arrest anyone in the District of Columbia for possession or use of any amount of marijuana as a violation of federal law.”[10]

Trinity Policy: As a private college that complies with the Drug-Free Workplace Act and the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act,[11] Trinity Washington University “prohibits the unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensing, possession or use of any controlled substance on Trinity’s campus or in any location where Trinity conducts business.  ‘Campus’ and ‘location’ includes private cars when parked on campus or at locations where Trinity conducts business.  ‘Controlled substance’ for this policy includes alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs sold or distributed to any person who is not the patient for whom the prescription was written, drugs obtained through fraudulent or forged prescriptions, and all illegal drugs.”[12]

Under 21

  • Marijuana is illegal for anyone under 21 years of age, regardless of quantity. A person under 21 with more than two ounces can be arrested. An MPD officer will seize marijuana from anyone under the age of 21 and from a person who cannot verify their age (in the latter case, the person will be issued a warning ticket by the MPD officer).
  • Persons over age 21 who are found to have distributed a controlled substance to anyone under age 18 are subject to even heavier penalties, including fines up to $125,000 and imprisonment for up to 60 years (D.C. Code § 48-904.06).
  • Persons over age 21 who are found to have distributed a controlled substance to anyone under age 18 are subject to even heavier penalties, including fines up to $125,000 and imprisonment for up to 60 years (D.C. Code § 48-904.06).[13]

Health Effects of Marijuana

Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the U.S. with 37.6 million users in the past year.[14]

  • Heart Health and Cardiovascular: Using marijuana makes the heart beat faster. It could also lead to an increased risk of stroke and heart disease.[15]
  • Lung Health: Smoked marijuana, in any form, can harm lung tissues and cause scarring and damage to small blood vessels. Smoke from marijuana contains many of the same toxins, irritants, and carcinogens as tobacco smoke. Smoking marijuana can also lead to a greater risk of bronchitis, cough, and phlegm production.[16]
  • Mental Health: Marijuana use, especially frequent (daily or near daily) use and use in high doses, can cause disorientation, and sometimes cause unpleasant thoughts or feelings of anxiety and paranoia. Marijuana users are significantly more likely than nonusers to develop temporary psychosis (not knowing what is real, hallucinations and paranoia) and long-lasting mental disorders, including schizophrenia (a type of mental illness where people might see or hear things that aren’t really there). Marijuana use has also been linked to depression and anxiety, and suicide among teens.[17]
  • Poisoning: Edibles, or food and drink products infused with marijuana and eaten, have some different risks than smoking marijuana, including a greater risk of poisoning. Unlike smoked marijuana, edibles can:
  • Take from 30 minutes to 2 hours to take effect. So some people eat too much, which can lead to poisoning and/or serious injury.
  • Cause effects that last longer than expected depending on the amount, the last food eaten, and medications or alcohol used at the same time.
  • Be very difficult to measure. The amount of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, is very difficult to measure and is often unknown in edible products. Many users can be caught off-guard by the strength and long-lasting effects of edibles.[18]


[1] https://www.cdc.gov/family/college/index.htm

[2] Ibid. “Get Vaccinated”

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://www.cdc.gov/family/college/index.htm

[5] National Institute of Health “College Drinking” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

[6] CDC citing U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition, Washington, DC; 2015.

[7] Division of Population Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention., (2018, January 3) “Alcohol Use and Your Health,” CDC Fact-Sheets., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm

[8] Trinity Washington University, (2018) “3. Alcohol and Drug Counseling and Assistance,” Policies, Retrieved from: https://www.trinitydc.edu/policies/drug-free-schools-act-policy-statement/

[9] Trinity Washington University, (2018) “2. Health Risks Associated with Drug and Alcohol Abuse” Policies, Retrieved from: https://www.trinitydc.edu/policies/drug-free-schools-act-policy-statement/

[10] Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department, (2015) “The Facts on DC Marijuana Laws: Enforcement by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies” Retrieved from: https://mpdc.dc.gov/marijuana

[11] Trinity Washington University, (2018) “Policy on Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act,” Policy on Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, Retrieved from: https://www.trinitydc.edu/policies/drug-free-schools-act-policy-statement/

[12] Trinity Washington University, Policies, “Policy

[13] Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department, (2015) “The Facts on DC Marijuana Laws: Know the Facts about Marijuana Possession!” Retrieved from: https://mpdc.dc.gov/marijuana

[14] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2017). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

[15] CDC (2018, February 27) “Marijuana and Public Health: Heart Health” Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/health-effects.html

[16]Ibid., Lung Health, citing 3.U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2014). The Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health.

[17] Ibid., Mental Health citing 1.National Academies of Sciences E, and Medicine. (2017). The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: Current state of evidence and recommendations for research. Washington, D.C. and 2.Volkow ND, Swanson JM, Evans AE, et al. (2016). Effects of cannabis use on human behavior, including cognition, motivation, and psychosis: a review. JAMA Psychiatry. 73(3):292-297. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.3278.

[18] Ibid., Poisoning