Columbia students make smart, safe, and responsible decisions about drug use. The majority of Columbia students (90%) do not use illegal drugs. More than 90% of students have not used prescription drugs not prescribed to them in the last year.*

There are many different types of drugs including stimulants, depressants, and hallucinogens, just to name a few. All drugs, legal or illegal, have risks. To learn more about the different types of drugs, check out the categories below.

*Data from Columbia University Morningside ACHA-NCHA Spring 2015

Caffeine, Energy Boosters, & Other Performance Enhancing Drugs

Performance enhancing drugs, like caffeine or steroids, have been used to increase energy, strength, and stamina. However, these substances are also sometimes addictive, illegal, and may have long- and short-term health consequences.

Adapted from the Mayo Clinic.

Want to learn more? Visit the Go Ask Alice! Caffeine, Energy Boosters, & Other Performance Enhancing Drugs archives.

Cocaine, Speed, & Other Stimulants

Stimulants are a type of drug that increase blood pressure, heart rate, and energy and make the user more alert. Select stimulants may be prescribed for a few health conditions, including ADHD, narcolepsy, and depression.

Adapted from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Want to learn more about stimulants? Visit the Go Ask Alice! Cocaine, Speed, & Other Stimulants archives.


Inhalants are chemicals that breathed in from common sources including glue, markers, cleaners, and spray cans, for the psychoactive effects. They are often not considered a “drug” because it is not the intended use of the product. Inhalants can be both depressants and stimulants. Using inhalants can lead to short-term problems like nausea and vomiting, or more long-term problems including damage to the nervous system and kidney and liver damage.

Adapted from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Want to learn more about inhalants? Visit the Go Ask Alice! Inhalants archives.

LCD, PCP, & Other Hallucinogens

Hallucinogens are chemicals found in plants (including mushrooms) that produce a mind-altering (psychoactive) effect. These drugs come in pills, liquids, and sometimes the plant itself is eaten. Hallucinogens distort reality and can lead to severe mood swing. However, it is difficult to say exactly what happens when a hallucinogen is used because they can affect people very differently.

Adapted from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Want to learn more about hallucinogens? Visit the Go Ask Alice! LSD, PCP, & Other Hallucinogens archives.

Prescription & Over-the-Counter Drugs

Prescription drugs are medications prescribed by a doctor for a specific individual to use. Over-the-counter drugs are legal drugs available without a prescription. Both of these types of medications are intended to be used to treat health issues, however, sometimes they are used improperly, or they are used be someone who did not receive the prescription. This can lead to many different health issues.

Adapted from the National Institute on Drug Abuse prescription drug and over-the-counter medications webpages.

Want to learn more and prescription and over-the-counter drugs? Visit the Go Ask Alice! Prescription & Over-the-Counter Drugs archives.

Sedatives, Tranquillizers, & Other Depressants

Sedatives are substances that slow down the activity of the brain. They are typically prescribed to help with anxiety or sleeping issues. Some have the potential to be addictive or lead to other health issues.

Adapted from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Want to learn more about sedatives? Visit the Go Ask Alice! Sedatives, Tranquillizers, & Other Depressants archives.

Signs of a Problem with Drugs

There are many signs to know if you or someone you know is addicted to a substance. These include:

  • Feeling like you need to use the substance regularly to function normally (daily or multiple times a day)
  • Using the substance as a stress management or coping mechanism
  • Engaging in behaviors that you normally would not while you are under the influence of the substance
  • Being unable to stop using the substance when you try
  • Spending money on the substance, even when you do not have the money for it
  • Making sure you always have some of the substance available for use
  • Engaging in behaviors you normally would in order to get the substance (e.g., stealing)

Adapted from the Mayo Clinic.

If you are concerned you or a friend has a problem with their drug use, you can make an appointment to meet with a BASICS provider at Alice! Health Promotion or a counselor at Counseling and Psychological Services.

Campus Guidelines and Policies

Columbia Health follows the guidelines and policies set forth in Essential Policies on alcohol other drug use. In order to comply with federal, state, and city laws, and to promote the health and well-being of its community, Columbia University has enacted policies on alcohol and drugs. All students, faculty, and staff are expected to comply with these policies. Please also take note of information found in the Columbia Housing’s online Guide to Living, including policies and procedures on alcohol and other drugs and the Responsible Community Action Policy. Further, guidelines and policies may vary by school. Please check with your school for more information.


Last updated May 04, 2017