Substance Use at GW


GW is committed to equipping students with the knowledge and skills to make informed, healthy decisions regarding substance use and to reduce their risk for negative consequences.
Camp Wellbeing Fair


We help students navigate their relationship to substances. Whether you are curious about sober living or are committed to it, are in recovery, or feel comfortable with the way you currently use substances, the resources below can help you to make informed decisions and reach your goals.

Narcan Access & Use

The DC government provides free access to naloxone, a life-saving medication used to reverse an opioid-related drug overdose, in pharmacies and community sites across the DC.

Sober Curiosity

Whether you identify as someone in recovery, considering recovery, or re-examining your relationship with alcohol or other drugs for different health and/or social reasons, there are resources available.

For a personalized consultation exploring your relationship with substance use, please email [email protected]. 




eCHECKUP TO GO is an evidence-based online training designed to help you explore your goals and motivations around substance use. eCHECKUP TO GO will help you identify and build upon protective behaviors that can help you stay on track to meet all your academic, professional and personal goals.

Access Cannabis eCHECKUP TO GO

Access Alcohol eCHECKUP TO GO

Technical Support & Questions

For any questions about eCHECKUP TO GO, or to learn more about an hold on your GWeb account, reach out to [email protected]. Be sure to include your GW User ID number. 

Substance Use Intervention

Educational Modules & Screening Tools

In conjunction with the Office of Student Rights & Responsibilities, the AOD intervention process involves a series of educational modules and screening tools, so students are equipped with the information to stay safe and are not simply penalized for AOD violations. Example tools include:

  • Alcohol eCHECKUP TO GO: Alcohol eCHECKUP TO GO is an interactive, online program that provides immediate, personalized feedback about your alcohol use and related behaviors. Program feedback can be used to reflect, set goals, and build intentional behaviors!
  • Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT): AUDIT is a simple and effective method of screening for unhealthy alcohol use, defined as risky or hazardous consumption or any alcohol use disorder.
  • Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS): BASICS is used as an one-on-one intervention tool for high-concern students who may be continually exhibiting harmful or risky alcohol use behaviors.
  • Cannabis eCHECKUP TO GO: Cannabis eCHECKUP TO GO is an interactive, online program that provides immediate, personalized feedback about your cannabis use and related behaviors. Program feedback can be used to reflect, set goals, and build intentional behaviors!
  • Cannabis Use Disorder Identification Test (CUDIT): CUDIT is a simple and effective method of screening for unhealthy Cannabis use, defined as risky or hazardous consumption or any Cannabis use disorder.
  • Cannabis Screening and Intervention for College Students (CASICS): Cannabis Screening and Intervention for College Students (CASICS) is used as a one-on-one intervention tool for high-concern students who may be continually exhibiting harmful or risky marijuana use behaviors.

If you are curious about any of these tools or would like to learn more, please email [email protected].


Drug Free Schools & Communities Act

What is the 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].

Substance-Use Disorder

Why do we do this work?

Substance use among students enrolled in colleges and universities has been on the rise for the past several decades. Substances have and will continue to have social, economic, psychological, and physiological consequences. 

  • Nearly half a million college students identify as already in recovery from alcohol or drugs
  • At least 12.5% of current college students meet the criteria for a significant substance-use disorder
  • Approximately 1 in 3 incoming college students report struggling with mental illness
  • Each year, we lose over 150,000 Americans to overdose, suicide, and addiction-related disease

*Based on data from the SAFE Project

What is Substance-Use Disorder (SUD), and what puts individuals at risk of developing SUD?

SUD is a diagnosable mental illness. "Addiction” is sometimes used interchangeably, but often refers to severe SUD. It is not “wrong” to say addiction! But in conversation, using SUD — and indicators like mild, moderate, or severe — can help make your language more clear.

No one is “destined” to develop a SUD. Many factors interact with each other to influence a persons risk of developing SUD.

Some of these factors include:

  • biology or genetics
  • the environment
  • exposure to trauma
Why do people use substances?

There are many reasons why a person may use substances, and all are influenced by a persons unique biology, the environment they grew up in and now find themselves in, and exposures to previous trauma. A couple of reasons why people may try or use substances include but are not limited to:

  • to relax, relieve stress, or celebrate
  • to counteract boredom
  • curiosity for the experience
  • to perform better in daily life or activities
  • to belong or fit in socially
  • to mitigate emotional or physical pain

Fast Facts

Alcohol Use at GW

56.5% 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 (5 or more standard drinks for males, 4 or standard drinks more for females) within the past two weeks.

  • 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


Standard drink sizes: Wine: 5oz = 148ml; alcohol by volume: 11-16% Beer: 12oz = 355ml; alcohol by volume: 3-5% Liquor: 1.5oz = 44ml; alcohol by volume: 40% (80 proof)

Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) measures the percentage of alcohol in a person's bloodstream The amount you drink and the speed at which alcohol is consumed will have a huge impact on your BAC level. Understanding 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. 

Cannabis Use at GW

21.1% 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.

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).

Interested in taking a Tolerance Break or "T-Break"? Check out this guide from the University of Vermont: 

T-Break Guide

Tobacco & Nicotine Use at GW

11.1% 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.

  • 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

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.

Vaping at GW

Four in five (82.9%) students who reported tobacco use had vaped, in comparison to other products like cigarettes, hookah, chewing tobacco, and cigars.

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.

Cocaine Use at GW

5.4% 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.

  • 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

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.

Inhalant Use at GW

5.9% 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.

  • 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

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.

Hallucinogen Use at GW

Nearly 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).

Stimulant Use at GW

5.1% 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).

  • One in 10 (10.8%) GW students who reported stimulant use were at moderate risk of developing/having a stimulant-use disorder

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).

Sedative Use at GW

3.9% 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

  • 19% of GW students who reported sedative use were at moderate risk of developing/having a sedative-use disorder

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.


What is stigma?

Substance use disorders remain highly stigmatized, which can act as a barrier for individuals seeking treatment and support within the community. 

In a college environment where excessive use is often normalized, this can be extremely challenging for individuals in recovery, pursuing recovery, and/or just curious about a lifestyle that doesn’t include alcohol and other drugs.

The first step we can all take is changing the way we talk about substance use and shifting some of the words in everyday language. The graphic linked below is a great place to start. Learn more about terms to use, terms to avoid, and why from the Words Matter chart by the National Institute of Health.

Important note: people who are in recovery might refer to themselves as “addict” or “alcoholic” but that is not the place of others to identify them as such.

Get Involved

Another way to chip away at stigma is to get involved with nonprofits and other organizations working to support people impacted by substance use:

  • Shatterproof is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming addiction treatment, ending stigma, and supporting communities.
  • To overcome the addiction epidemic, it requires our collective action. That’s why SAFE Project works collaboratively to bring solutions to communities, campuses, workplaces, and active-duty service members, veterans, and their families.
  • Faces & Voices of Recovery is dedicated to organizing and mobilizing the over 23 million Americans in recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs, our families, friends and allies into recovery community organizations and networks, to promote the right and resources to recover through advocacy, education and demonstrating the power and proof of long-term recovery.

    Harm Reduction

    What is "harm reduction"?

    “Harm reduction is a public health approach that focuses on mitigating the harmful consequences of drug use, including transmission of infectious disease and prevention of overdose, through provision of care that is intended to be free of stigma and centered on the needs of people who use drugs.” - CDC

    Harm Reduction Resources

    Harm reduction is critical to keeping people who use drugs alive and as healthy as possible, and is a key pillar in the multi-faceted Health and Human Services' Overdose Prevention Strategy.

    National Harm Reduction Coalition creates spaces for dialogue and action that help heal the harms caused by racialized drug policies.