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Marijuana leaf. Credit: @jcomp, via Freepik

Drug Use Facts

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Drugs (illegal or psychoactive) offer ways to alter our everyday consciousness. At Stanford University, a very small percentage of students regularly use illegal drugs or abuse prescription drugs. Psychoactive drugs produce powerful experiences. Whether taken for fun, high energy, spiritual transcendence, to explore feelings or escape problems, the side effects are equally powerful.

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Psychoactive drugs affect the central nervous system. Stimulating drugs (“uppers”) increase heart rate and metabolic functions. Drugs that depress the central nervous system (“downers”) slow heart rate and respiration, decreasing muscle coordination and dulling the senses. These drugs also distort perceptions and induce hallucinogenic (psychedelic) effects.

The influence and adverse side effects of these drugs varies according to the user’s physiology, personality traits and the setting where the drugs are ingested. Drug dosage and purity also varies.

Research is mounting that links various forms of drug use with health and safety risks. Stanford students who use drugs also deal with other consequences (such as legal, academic and interpersonal problems). The use of drugs and the abuse of prescription drugs can become a serious problem. The resources listed on these pages can help.

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  • Now much stronger than in the past.
  • Effects last two to four hours when smoked. (Hashish or “Hash” is concentrated resin from the cannabis plant. Its effect is more intense and lasts longer.)
  • Exaggerates the user’s mood and personality and can cause mild euphoria. Perceptions appear clearer and more intense; inhibitions lessen while appetite increases.
  • Can produce paranoia and uneasiness in some people.
  • May impair short-term memory, motivation and intellectual functioning. Can cause psychological dependency with repeated use and may increase risk of lung cancer.

Ecstasy (MDMA)

  • A semisynthetic, amphetamine-like drug.
  • Taken orally, its effects last from four to six hours.
  • Creates feelings of euphoria, empathy and altered social perceptions.
  • Can bring on anxiety, respiratory distress, psychological dependency and physical exertion that can lead to heat exhaustion (i.e., rave parties).


  • Called “magic mushrooms” or “shrooms.”
  • Effects last five to six hours.
  • Can cause nausea when first ingested.
  • May induce sensory hallucinations and intense feelings (including personal and spiritual insights).
  • Often fake (supermarket mushrooms laced with LSD or toxic mushrooms that can cause permanent liver damage or death).

LSD (“Acid”)

  • Now reappearing at rave clubs and parties.
  • Orally ingested, LSD is very potent and lasts eight to ten hours.
  • Can bring on illusions and intense emotions.
  • Can impair judgment and concentration, invoking a distorted sense of imperviousness and taking on increased physical risks.
  • High dosage or impure mixtures can produce a “bad trip” (acute anxiety reactions, paranoia and feeling loss of control).


  • A powerful central nervous system stimulant which can be snorted, taken orally, smoked or injected.
  • Can cause an intense initial rush, increased alertness, energy and euphoria.
  • High doses or chronic use causes nervousness, irritability and paranoia.
  • Highly addictive, both physically and psychologically.
  • Death may occur from overdose.


  • An extremely potent stimulant that is snorted, smoked or injected.
  • Extremely addictive. Many people become “hooked” after only one dose.
  • Manufactured in dirty meth labs; can be mixed with dangerous toxins.
  • Meth tolerance is established very quickly.
  • Use can lead to compromising health issues.
  • Overdoses are common.


  • Professional treatment can help when drug use moves from experimentation to compulsion. (For assistance, contact CAPS.)
  • If you suspect a drug overdose, call 911 (9-911 from a campus phone) immediately and stay with the person until help arrives.
  • During a bad trip, talk the user down in a calm, reassuring manner (if the person becomes violent or does not respond, call 911).
  • Keep in mind that there are legal consequences for using illegal drugs and what you do while you’re under their influence.