• Jeremy Papasso

    Two unidentified men pass a joint during the 4/20 rally on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder in 2012.


    Revelers light up during the 2011 4/20 smoke-out on the University of Colorado campus.


Campus resources

Wardenburg Health Center

Monday-Thursday 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-2 p.m., closed Sunday


Community Health, Division of Wardenburg

UMC 411

Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.


Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

Center for Community S440

Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.


Psychological Health & Psychiatry

Wardenburg Health Center, first floor

Monday-Thursday 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-2 p.m., closed Sunday


Information on alcohol and other drug programs:

College is a time for learning and self-discovery. However, experimenting with drugs — legal and illegal — can have negative consequences that could compromise your education and well being.

Along with alcohol, two major areas of substance use concern among students are marijuana and prescription drugs. Here’s a look at the health effects of these drugs, and where you can turn if you develop a problem.

Do I have a problem? Marijuana

Due to the polarized debate on pot, not to mention “holidays” like 4/20, marijuana is a prominent concern at CU. However, marijuana is still a Schedule I controlled substance, illegal under federal law; it’s illegal to smoke on campus, and it could have adverse health consequences, said Lee Scriggins, of Community Health at CU’s Wardenburg Health Center.

“Marijuana can lead to memory loss and driving impairment,” Scriggins said. “There’s also a compounding effect when you’re drunk and high, compromising motor skills, reaction time and anticipation ability.”

Do I have a problem? Prescription drugs

Prescription drug abuse among students can be broken down into two categories, Scriggins said: stimulants and other, which includes depressants and barbiturates. Along with negative effects like irritability and explosiveness, using stimulants like Adderall as a study aid tend to make students over-interpret how much they’ve actually accomplished.

“People using stimulants feel like they’re achievement-oriented and making progress on tasks, when really they’re not,” Scriggins said. “Sleep has a huge impact on memory, and stimulants inhibit that effect, so users don’t learn as much as they think they do.”

On the opposite end of the chemical spectrum, combining one depressant (like alcohol) with another (such as a prescription drug for treating depression, anxiety, insomnia, etc.) has its own series of risks.

“If you drink and use depressants, you could die,” Scriggins said. The cumulative effect of multiple depressants is diminished breathing, which could lead to respiratory failure.

Where can I turn?

Students who experience dependence or addiction to marijuana, prescription medications and other drugs have on-campus resources to help them toward recovery.

“We work in an individualized way to provide treatment appropriate to use,” said Matthew Tomatz, substance abuse program coordinator for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at CU. “Our goal is harm reduction, so students can make decisions that will help them succeed in school.”

CAPS offers up to six free sessions of one-on-one counseling per academic year, as well as a wide range of group therapy options. One group, facilitated by Tomatz, is specifically dedicated to forming community through sobriety, welcoming students in recovery and non-users alike.

“Oasis is a group for students seeking meaningful connections through a sober lifestyle,” Tomatz said. Held every Friday from 3-4 p.m., Oasis meetings take a loose, social format, with attendees conversing over gourds of the traditional South American herbal beverage mate, which helps “establish a simple social ritual.”

Another option for students with substance-use issues is the Psychological Health & Psychiatry (PHP) clinic in Wardenburg. In addition to hosting classes for students facing court or Office of Student Conduct proceedings for drug citations, students can access recovery resources like substance-abuse screenings and counseling appointments (fees may apply).

Assessments take the form of hour-long sessions in which the clinic’s professional counselors gain patient insight into history, family tendencies, statistical risk points and symptoms, said Stephen Bentley, Alcohol and Other Drug Program coordinator at PHP. From there, counselors can offer feedback on potential treatment options.

“The change from recreational use to using just to feel good could be the start of a possible problem,” Bentley said. “The first step toward recovery is self-awareness.”

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