Party Drugs: MDMA

Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, aka MDMA, is one of the most glamorized party drugs. Now, commonly known as “Molly”, MDMA is also the main ingredient in Ecstasy, which is usually mixed with other illicit drugs, such as LSD or speed. MDMA is one of the more popular party drugs among 18-25 year olds.

What are the effects on your brain and body?

  • MDMA impairs your ability to make judgment calls and can lead to poor decision-making, such as unsafe sex.
  • The flood of the drug on your brain alters naturally occurring chemicals (such as dopamine and serotonin), leading to later symptoms of depression and anxiety. This is especially impairing over the next several weeks after using the drug as your brain attempts to get back to its normal levels. MDMA can have negative long-lasting effects on brain chemistry.
  • MDMA increases your heart rate and body temperature, potentially leading to liver and kidney damage. Muscle tension, blurry vision, and nausea are common side effects, too.

While MDMA is an illegal drug, which already marks it as unsafe, it is even more problematic since it is unregulated – meaning that you never know what other drugs are mixed in. Despite media portrayal of MDMA as a nonaddictive drug, young adults are still dying from the use of MDMA – often in the form of Ecstasy and Molly that has been laced with other drugs.

If you or someone you care about are struggling with drug use, please reach out to the Counseling Center or call the 24-hour Crisis Line at (206) 461-3222.

Vaping and Smoking

Cigarette use among college students has declined and the use of alternative ways of smoking has increased. As of 2017, over 2,000 college campuses across the nation have made an effort to reduce cigarette use, with many of them becoming smoke-free campuses. SPU went smoke-free as of 2005.

What is vaping and is it safe? Despite the myth that vapes and e-cigarettes consist of flavored water vapor, vaping is actually the inhalation and exhalation of a chemical aerosol. In contrast, when smoking a cigarette, you are inhaling and exhaling tobacco smoke. What vaping, e-cigarettes, and cigarettes all have in common are various levels of nicotine, which is known for its addictive effect. While vaping and e-cigarettes have less nicotine than cigarettes, this has led to many believing that vaping or e-cigarettes are a safe or better alternative to smoking cigarettes.

While research is in progress to understand the long-term effects of vaping and e-cigarettes, the chemicals found in these devices are already known to cause lung damage and other physical health problems. Nicotine in any form acts as a stimulant, increasing your heart rate, and effects dopamine levels (the neurotransmitter in your brain that tells you something feels good). Media popularizes the idea that vaping and e-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes, however, less harm does not mean harmless.

Stress plays a big role in why people smoke or vape and stress can come in many forms – maybe it’s stress from wanting to join in with your friends when they smoke or vape, or maybe it’s academic or financial stress. While quitting cold turkey or switching to things like nicotine gum or the patch can help with quitting, reducing your stress overall will be helpful. Check out these tips on reducing stress to help with making healthier choices.

"Study Drugs"

One in five college students abuse prescription stimulants, meaning they are taking drugs such as Adderall, Ritalin, or Vyvanse, without a prescription or at a higher dose than prescribed. These drugs, known as “study drugs”, are often prescribed to individuals who have difficulty focusing, paying attention, or who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

One of the most common myths about “study drugs” is that they will help otherwise healthy individuals hyper-focus on a task or project.

This is not true. While individuals who are prescribed these drugs are boosting their body’s naturally occurring chemicals (neurotransmitters) to a normal level – individuals who take “study drugs” without a prescription are at risk of developing anxiety, decreased sleep, increased blood pressure, disorganized thinking, and the jitters. Instead of hyper-focusing, you end up overwhelming your body’s naturally occurring chemicals. In fact, students who take prescription stimulants, actually have lower GPA’s than students who do not take them!

With the stress of classes and deadlines, it can be tempting to take a “study drug”. However, there is not a magic drug that can make you perform well in class or help you cram the night before an exam. In fact, it may even end up being more damaging to your performance. Time management and meeting goals are two of the most common reasons students use “study drugs”. Fortunately, there are ways you can manage your time and set goals on your own.

If you find yourself or someone you care about struggling with drugs, please reach out to the Counseling Center or call the 24-hour Crisis Line at (206) 461-3222. It’s always ok to need help!