Substance Use


The following tips on alcohol and drugs come from Washington State University ( 


Alcohol and other substance-abuse problems may surface for you while you are abroad. Remember: The majority of crimes and many accidents involving study abroad students are related to excessive use of alcohol.

  • Most countries where WSU has programs abroad have lower drinking ages than the United States, but they all have very different attitudes and laws toward consumption of alcohol and public drunkenness.
  • Other cultures may include drinking alcohol daily or at most meals but generally binge drinking or drunkenness is embarrassing and not acceptable. In some cultures, violence (fighting, sexual or physical assault, verbal insults) is not an acceptable part of the club scene, drinking, or socializing. Being loud and calling attention to oneself while socializing in a bar, club, or restaurant can be very offensive. Learning about these attitudes will be part of your cultural adjustment.
  • Sometimes students free from U.S. laws and attitudes toward alcohol slip into patterns of alcohol abuse while abroad. It is important for you to remember that alcohol and drugs can impair your judgment, especially while you are abroad in unfamiliar surroundings and can make you that much more vulnerable to unsafe sex, sexual assault, theft, and physical attacks or fights.
  • If students are recovering from an alcohol or other substance abuse problem, they can find meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and other support groups in many countries. Chapters of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) exist throughout the world. Encourage students to discuss a plan for their sobriety with their parents, a counselor, the faculty member or Education Abroad staff. Emphasize that Counseling Services at WSU are available, free, and confidential. Be clear about what support mechanisms students may draw on while they are abroad.


Other Drugs

Although alcohol is socially accepted in many countries outside of the United States, use of other drugs is almost never allowed. In some countries simple acquisition of prohibited drugs can result in heavy fines, deportation, or prison sentences. While you are abroad you will be subject to all local laws, and these can be very severe when it comes to illegal drugs.

You may encounter clubs or other situations where so-called club drugs such as ecstasy (MDMA), crystal meth (amphetamine), ketamine, GHB and the like are used more openly than you might see in the U.S.

  • When you purchase or accept such drugs, you do not know exactly what you are getting and don't know whom you can really trust.
  • They are illegal.
  • Drug dealer have been known to tip off police and get students arrested in hopes of getting a cut of a bribe or protection.
  • There have been cases of these kinds of drugs being slipped into study abroad students' beverages without their knowledge.
  • On occasion, use of these kinds of drugs has been known to trigger latent psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc.


Note: There are a few countries where the purchase and use of some substances is legal and highly regulated. For example in Amsterdam, Netherlands one can visit a "coffee house" in the "red light districts" and use hashish or marijuana. This is a legal practice in the Netherlands as long as there are no mitigating circumstances such as violence, crime, etc. In this case, a WSU student is not in violation of US laws or WSU code of student conduct. However, even though this action is legal, it is not risk free or consequence free. Individual WSU faculty lead trips may forbid this practice and may have students sign a written behavioral contract. Third party contractors or companies which provide a study abroad experience for WSU students may ban this behavior. In both cases this can be grounds for program expulsion and/or being sent home. Each student is responsible for knowing the laws, rules, regulations, and group expectations of their own particular program.


Intravenous Drug Use

In some parts of Europe and Australia, I.V. drug use among college-aged people is more prevalent than in the US. Even if you steer clear of such drugs, remember that having sexual relations with a person using drugs intravenously or sharing needles could expose you to HIV or hepatitis B or C.


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