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Alcohol and Other Drugs

What do you hope to accomplish during your time here at Clemson?

It’s important to frame this conversation by saying that we recognize that not everyone drinks or will choose to drink. Specifically, 33.4% of first-year students at Clemson reported never drinking alcohol in the past 90 days (NCHA, 2022).

They may not drink because they are not 21 years of age, health concerns, or personal or cultural values and beliefs.

Stats from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:

Death: 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries.

Assault: More than 690,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.

Sexual Abuse: More than 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or acquaintance rape.

Injury: 599,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 receive unintentional injuries while under the influence of alcohol.

Academic Problems: About 3.9% of college students report academic consequences of their drinking, including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall (NCHA, 2022).

It’s not just alcohol but drugs, too. Only 21.7% of Clemson students reported they are current users of an illegal drug in the past year (NCHA, 2022).

  • What are reasons students under 21 choose to drink?

  • What are reasons college students choose not to drink or choose to wait until the age of 21?

  • How could drinking before the legal age affect a college student's health?

  • How could drinking before the legal age affect a college student's educational experience and overall safety?

Those who wait until age 21 to begin drinking have improved long and short-term cognitive skills, including decision-making and memory formation ability.

Those who wait are less likely to have self-esteem issues as well as mental health conditions such as alcoholism, depression, stress and risk of suicide.

Those who wait are more likely to have higher academic performance. Choosing not to drink could contribute to more time invested into schoolwork.

Underage alcohol consumption can contribute to risky behaviors leading to harming oneself or others. On average, about 4,000 people under the age of 21 die due to alcohol-related injuries each year (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2016). Driving safety may be compromised for those who begin drinking before 21.

  • For drivers ages 16–20, a car accident is 17 times more likely occur when the driver is legally intoxicated than when they are sober (Johns Hopkins, 2016).

  • Regardless of age, drinking and driving is never okay. It is important to always identify a designated driver. This is someone who is not under the influence of any type of alcohol or drug.

BAC stands for Blood Alcohol Concentration. The four main factors that affect an individual’s BAC are gender, weight, amount of alcohol consumed and the amount of time it has been consumed in.

Alcohol affects your body differently at different levels of BAC.

BAC Levels Graph

There are physiological differences between men and women in the way that they process alcohol in their body. Even if they consumed the same amount, men and women’s BAC will differ because of the body’s ability to dilute and metabolize alcohol, as well as hormonal factors. Binge drinking typically happens when men consume 5 or more drinks or women consume 4 or more drinks in about 2 hours.

BAC Men-v-Women-Alcohol-Infographic.jpg

.08 BAC Legal Limit. (n.d.). Retrieved from URL

National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2004). NIAA council approves definition of binge drinking. Retrieved from URL

The body can process about one standard drink per hour.

The amount of liquid in your glass, can or bottle does not necessarily match up to how much alcohol is actually in your drink. Different types of beer, wine or malt liquor can have very different amounts of alcohol content. In the United States, one "standard" drink contains roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in:

  • 12 ounces of regular beer, which is usually about 5% alcohol

  • 5 ounces of wine, which is typically about 12% alcohol

  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, which is about 40% alcohol

How do you know how much alcohol is in your drink?

Even though they come in different sizes, the drinks below are each examples of one standard drink:

Standard Drink Size

What Is A Standard Drink? (n.d.). Retrieved from URL

There is a cultural myth that the more alcohol you consume, the better one will feel. It is actually the opposite. Alcohol can create a relaxed feeling; there is a point in which the body begins to feel a downward effect. This is called the point of diminishing return, which is a BAC of 0.06.

BAC Level/Point of Diminishing Return

When you pass a 0.06 BAC level, negative effects begin. These symptoms include fatigue, impaired sexual performance, inappropriate social behavior and over-expressed emotions (Adapted from the University of Rochester).

  • Alternate alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks (water or even fizzy water that looks like a drink to take pressure off of not drinking)

  • Stay with the same group of friends the entire time of drinking

  • Choose not to drink alcohol

  • Take an intoxicated friend’s keys

  • Don’t drive/use a designated driver (Aspire to Be Safe - Use the Safety section of the my.Clemson app)

  • Avoid drinking games

  • Pace drinks to one or fewer an hour

  • Do not accept an open container of alcohol

  • Plan your way home before you go out


Alcohol depresses nerves that control involuntary actions such as breathing and the gag reflex (which prevents choking). A fatal dose of alcohol will eventually stop these functions.

It is common for someone who drank excessive alcohol to vomit since alcohol is an irritant to the stomach. There is then the danger of choking on vomit, which could cause death by asphyxiation in a person who is not conscious because of intoxication.

You should also know that a person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) could continue to rise even while he or she is passed out. Even after a person stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. It is dangerous to assume the person will be fine by sleeping it off.

Critical Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

  • Mental confusion, stupor, coma or person cannot be roused

  • Vomiting

  • Seizures

  • Slow breathing (fewer than eight breaths per minute)

  • Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)

  • Hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish skin color, paleness

What to Do if You Suspect Someone Has Alcohol Poisoning

  • Know the danger signals.

  • Do not wait for all symptoms to be present.

  • Be aware that a person who has passed out may die.

  • If there is any suspicion of an alcohol overdose, call 911 for help. Don't try to guess the level of drunkenness.

Alcohol poisoning is a medical emergency. Our first priority is the safety of our students. If you think a friend might have alcohol poisoning, please get help. The Clemson University Police Department (864-656-2222) or 911 are the quickest resources to help a friend in need. 

BAC Calculator

Facts About Alcohol Poisoning. (n.d.). Retrieved from URL

Make no mistake about it: alcohol poisoning is a medical emergency. Our first priority is the safety of our students. If you think a friend might have alcohol poisoning, please get help. The Clemson University Police Department (864-656-2222) or 911 are the quickest resources to help a friend in need.

Clemson University has a Medical Alcohol Amnesty Policy (MAAP) that provides amnesty for students who need medical attention as well as the students who make the call for help. Those students who utilize MAAP will be contacted by someone from the Office of Advocacy and Success to ensure that they have the resources they need in order to be a successful Clemson student.

Clemson also has a CARE Network in place to help students experiencing difficulties. If you feel a friend has a problem with drugs or alcohol and it is not an emergency, you can submit a CARE report or contact Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at 864-656-2451. These and other resources are available on the go in the Safety section of the my.Clemson app.

Remember: Dont worry about the consequences of helping someone. We're all Clemson Tigers. Look out for one another.


Office of Community and Ethical Standards

The three big points you need to know about Clemson University and drug use are as follows:

A Leading Cause of Death

Deaths from drug overdose have been rising steadily over the past two decades and have become the leading cause of injury death in the United States.


*More DEATHS from accidental drug overdose than car accidents

Dangerous Interactions

The danger is that many over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs, especially when mixed with alcohol, have synergistic effect. For example, prescription pain relievers and alcohol both slow breathing. By ingesting too much of both, someone can literally stop breathing. Read the labels and check with the pharmacist before combining any medications and/or drugs.

Unknown Substance

These drugs are not regulated by the FDA; therefore, there is no way to know what is actually in them. Remember, if you do not know what is in it or the concentration, neither will the emergency medical personnel.

Street Names:  dope, ganja, grass, herb, mary jane, pot, reefer, weed, 420

It’s not just one drug, like cocaine, that students have misperceptions around; it's most of them. Only 23.8% of Clemson students reported that they are current users of marijuana in the past 3 months (NCHA, 2022).

Marijuana has both short and long term effects on the brain. Short term effects include impaired body movement, difficulty thinking or problem solving, and impaired memory. Long term effects include brain development and loss up to 8 IQ points that may be permanent. In addition to the effects marijuana has on your brain, it can have physical effects on the body:

  • Breathing problems – frequent marijuana users can develop the same breathing problems tobacco users have (daily cough and phlegm, lung illnesses, higher risk of lung infection)

  • Increased heart rate – raises heart rate up to 3 hours after smoking; increased chance of heart attack

  • Problems with child development during and after pregnancy

How marijuana can impact your life:

  • Lower life satisfaction

  • Poorer mental health

  • Poorer physical health

  • More relationship problems

Regardless of your stance on the legalization of marijuana, it is illegal in the state of South Carolina and therefore an illegal drug on campus. It will be treated as an illegal substance in disciplinary action. 

DrugFacts: Marijuana. (n.d.). Retrieved from URL

Prescription drug abuse is the use of a prescription medication in a way not intended by the prescribing doctor, such as for the feelings you get from the drug.

The classes of prescription drugs most commonly abused are: opioid pain relievers, such as Vicodin or Oxycontin; stimulants for treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), such as Adderall, Concerta or Ritalin; and central nervous system (CNS) depressants for relieving anxiety, such as Valium or Xanax. The most commonly abused over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are cough and cold remedies containing dextromethorphan.

People often think that prescription and OTC drugs are safer than illicit drugs, but that’s only true when they are taken exactly as prescribed and for the purpose intended. When abused, prescription and OTC drugs can be addictive and put abusers at risk for other adverse health effects, including overdose—especially when taken along with other drugs or alcohol.

DrugFacts: Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications. (n.d.). Retrieved from URL

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50-100 times stronger. It is a prescription drug that is also made and used illegally. Like morphine, it is a medicine that is typically used to treat patients with severe pain, especially after surgery (USDHHS, 2021).

  • Synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, are now the most common drug involved in drug overdose deaths in the United States (CDC,2022).
  • From 2020-2021, opioid deaths in the United States increased by 15%, and Fentanyl was primarily responsible (CDC,2022).
  • In 2020, 1,734 South Carolinians died of drug overdose. Of those deaths, 1,100 were due to fentanyl (DAODAS,2020).

Signs of opioid overdose (CDC):

  • Small, constricted “pinpoint pupils”
  • Falling asleep or loosing consciousness
  • Slow, weak or no breathing
  • Choking or gurgling sounds
  • Limp body
  • Cold and/or clammy skin
  • Discolored skin (especially in lips and nails)

Clemson University is a tobacco-free institution. No smoking or other use of Tobacco Products is permitted on University Property. This policy is intended to discourage tobacco use and includes a ban on selling, free sampling or littering of any and all Tobacco Products on University Property. This includes JUULs and other vape pens or e-cigarettes. You can find more information on the policy at clemson.edu/tobaccofree.

Clemson All-In Recovery (CAIR)

A student organization aiming to support students interested in recovery from addictions, allies of recovery and/or anyone affected by addiction.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) 

CAPS is located in Redfern Health Center and is the University's only facility for personal counseling, psychological testing, outreach and consultation. An after-hours counselor is available and can be reached by calling CAPS at 864-656-2451 (select option 2).

CARE Network 

While students on Clemson’s campus deal with many challenging situations every day, the CARE Network is designed to track those incidents that are deemed “critical” and/or which may indicate unusual or harmful student behavior or trends.

Medical Alcohol Amnesty Policy (MAAP)

Clemson University Police Department (CUPD)


Online Self-Assessments


e-CHECKUP-TO-GO is 20-minute, interactive Web program that provides a more comprehensive overview of behaviors and the choices you make in terms of your alcohol and drug use. This assessment will increase your awareness about the impact your substance use has on your thoughts, financial standing, health, and overall performance. It is self-guided- making it quick, confidential, and flexible. Use this program as often as you would like! It is meant to be used as a “check-up” for substance use, much like you would get a check-up from the doctor.


Additional Resources on Alcohol and Other Drugs


Bystander Intervention
Interpersonal Violence

Alcohol and Other Drugs
Mental Health