March 21, 2018

USC Drug-Free

Federal regulations require that, as a condition of receiving funds or any other form of financial assistance under any federal program, an institution of higher education must certify that it has adopted and implemented a program to prevent the unlawful possession, use, or distribution of illicit drugs and alcohol by students and employees. A notification regarding the university’s drug and alcohol prevention efforts is provided annually to each member of the USC community in accordance with this regulation.  This webpage lists university services, policies, and procedures for preserving a drug-free workplace and study environment.

Anyone receiving funding from federal sources should carefully read the section on “Special requirements for those working on or with federal contracts and grants.”

A message from President C. L. Max Nikias

At USC, we all share a commitment to creating an environment in which excellent teaching, research, and learning can flourish. As part of this commitment, we recognize the need to enhance wellness and reduce risks to our community, notably concerning alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. We extend this commitment to everyone in our community—from our students to our faculty, and from our staff to our alumni.

For our students, though, these issues may be newer. Academic life should be creatively nourishing and intellectually invigorating—but never destructive. The coping mechanisms that our students learn here on our campuses—to allay stress, navigate social situations, and handle difficult emotions—will remain with them throughout their lives. Our goal is to equip them with lifelong skills, so they are able to maintain their health and enjoy productive careers and meaningful relationships with others.

To this end, the university provides students, faculty, and staff with resources that promote wellness. All members of the USC community should read this webpage carefully to learn more about the university’s support programs. Whether you are—or someone you know is—planning an event, interested in getting involved with drug free communities, or having problems that are related to the use of drugs, the information found here will be both instructive and informative.

C. L. Max Nikias, President


USC recognizes that illegal or abusive use of alcohol and other drugs by members of the university community has a detrimental effect on the university’s commitment to provide continual excellence in teaching, research and education. Misuse of drugs by students poses hazards both to the individual involved and to the community. Students share with faculty and staff the responsibility for creating attitudes conducive to eliminating the abuse of alcohol and other drugs within the university community.

USC’s comprehensive approach to addressing substance abuse emphasizes:

  • Taking effective steps to create and maintain a drug-free workplace and educational environment for students, faculty and staff.
  • Providing continuous access to prevention, health promotion and medical and behavioral healthcare services, along with referrals to off-campus treatment facilities as appropriate.
  • Encouraging individuals who are experiencing problems associated with alcohol and other drugs to seek assessment and treatment.
  • Engaging in ongoing self-assessment of university sanctions for the illegal manufacture, distribution, use or possession of drugs and the unlawful possession or use of alcohol. (See “Sanctions” section of this policy for an overview of possible university and criminal sanctions.)

Health risks associated with the use of alcohol and other drugs

General health risks

Many well-documented risks are associated with alcohol and other drugs, affecting not only the individual user but also his/her family, friends and communities. Alcohol is frequently implicated in cases of sexual misconduct on campus, for example, and the misuse of other drugs is sometimes a factor in other violent behavior. Problems associated with alcohol and other drugs include impaired brain function; poor academic or job performance; relationship difficulties, including sexual dysfunction; a tendency to verbal and physical violence; financial distress; injuries or accidents; violations of the law such as driving under the influence; willfully destroying property; and death.

The following summaries describe some of the additional substance-specific risks associated with the use and misuse of alcohol and other substances.


For men, at-risk drinking is drinking more than four standard doses (or drinks) of alcohol a day and/or more than 14 drinks per week. For women, at-risk drinking is drinking more than three standard doses (or drinks) drinks a day and/or more than seven drinks a week. (One drink is equal to 12 oz beer, 5 oz wine, or 1.5 oz liquor.) While any alcohol use has the potential to contribute to problems (e.g., alcohol use impairs brain function and motor skills even when not legally drunk), studies show that certain “at-risk” drinking patterns are associated with an increased likelihood of negative outcomes.

At-risk drinking can cause poor performance in school or at work, accidents, injuries, arguments, legal problems (including DUI), strained relationships, undesirable or even dangerous sex, and verbal or physical violence, including the perpetration of sexual assault. At-risk drinking also contributes to sleep problems, prolonged intoxication aka hangovers, cancer, liver disease, stroke, depression, anxiety, and Alcohol Use Disorder.

At-risk alcohol consumption is involved in the majority of violent acts on campuses, including sexual assault, vandalism, fights, and accidents involving cars, pedestrians and bicycles.

Although not necessarily obvious in the traditional college age (18-24) population, there is addiction among users.

Cannibis (marijuana, hashish)

THC, the active chemical in marijuana, is stored in the fat cells of the body, and depending on the amount used and duration of time, can stay in the body for anything from a few days to about two months. Marijuana use can impair or distort short-term memory and comprehension, alter the user’s sense of time, and reduce coordination. Use may also result in a compromised immune system and an increased risk of lung cancer.

Cocaine (crack and other stimulants)

The immediate effects of cocaine use include dilated pupils, and increased blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration rate followed by a crash when the drug wears off. Over the longer term, cocaine users often have nasal passage and nasal septum problems.  There is a high rate of addiction among users.

Hallucinogens (LSD, mescaline, psilocybin)

Hallucinogens cause illusions and distortions of time and perception. The user may experience episodes of panic, confusion, suspicion, anxiety and loss of control. Flashbacks can occur even after use has stopped. PCP or phencyclidine has been shown to produce violent behaviors which can lead to injuries to the user or a bystander.

Heroin (other opiates)

Heroin causes the body to experience diminished pain. If injected, it can result in blood vessel damage (and possibly the transmission of infections such as hepatitis and HlV if needles are shared). There is a high rate of addiction among users.

Tobacco (cigarettes, chew, and other products)

Tobacco use has been proven not only to be addictive, but to have serious, well-documented health consequences. While many people, particularly students, look to smoking as a way of reducing stress, it should be remembered that there is no comparison between the stress of facing emphysema or lung cancer and the stress of preparing for mid-terms. There is a high rate of addiction among users.

USC resources for students

AlcoholEdu for College – whether or not you decide to drink alcohol while you are at USC, AlcoholEdu for College will assist you in making well-informed decisions and responding to the possible drinking-related behavior of your peers. Please note that incoming undergraduate students are required to complete USC’s AlcoholEdu for College and pass the final exam even if you have done so at another institution.  For technical support, call (866) 384-9062 or visit  For program questions, contact

USC Student Health: Acute Care or Primary Care Clinics, for medical assessments and referrals.

Engemann Student Health Center (ESH 100)
(213) 740-9355

HSC/Eric Cohen Student Health Center
(323) 442-5631

The Office for Wellness and Health Promotion, for The Wellness Lounge, referrals and best-practice indicated prevention (e.g., “BASICS” – Balancing Alcohol and Substances to Improve College Success)

Engemann Student Health Center (ESH 203)
(213) 740-4777

USC Student Health: Student Counseling Services, for individual and group counseling, substance abuse support groups, and referrals to treatment off campus

Engemann Student Health Center (ESH 300)
(213) 740-7711

USC resources for faculty and staff

Employees are encouraged to seek immediate help through any of the following resources.

Center for Work and Family Life – no cost education, information, assessments, referrals and treatment for all faculty and staff (including hospital staff), and their dependent family members
(213) 821-0800

USC Faculty/Staff Health Clinic, for medical assessment and referrals to counseling and treatment.

Engemann Student Health Center (ESH 435)
(800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) 

Faculty Mediation Officer
(213) 740-4794 

Anthem Blue Cross, for hospital employees represented by a collective bargaining unit
HMO (800) 227-3613
PPO (800) 759-3030 

Kaiser (Member Service Call Center)
(800) 464-4000

Other resources

Alcoholics Anonymous
English (323) 936-4343
en Español (323) 750-2039

(818) 760-7122

Adult Children of Alcoholics
(310) 534-1815

Cocaine Anonymous
(888) 714-8341

Family Anonymous Drug Abuse
(847) 294-5877

Marijuana Anonymous (English/Español)
(800) 766-6779

Narcotics Anonymous (English) (Español)
English (800) 863-2962
en Español (888) 622-4692

National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependency
(818) 997-0414

University policy on alcohol and other drugs

Unauthorized use, possession or dissemination of alcohol, tobacco products, unauthorized or illegal drugs, or drug-related paraphernalia in the university community or at university-sponsored activities, is prohibited.  See SCampus, Part B, Section 11; SCampus, Part F, Sections 4 and 5.

The following provisions of federal, state and municipal law serve as the foundation for USC’s policy on the unlawful use of alcohol, including university disciplinary action. (Note: this list is not a complete summary of relevant laws and ordinances.)

State and municipal laws and ordinances

  • The purchase, possession, or consumption of alcoholic beverages (including beer and wine) by any person under the age of 21 is prohibited.
  • The selling, either directly or indirectly, of alcoholic beverages (including beer and wine) except under the authority of a California Alcoholic Beverage Control Board license is prohibited. This includes selling glasses, mixes, ice, tickets for admission, etc.
  • The serving of alcohol to an intoxicated person is prohibited.
  • The serving of alcohol to someone to the point of intoxication is prohibited.
  • The manufacture, use or provision of a false state identification card, driver’s license, or certification of birth or baptism is prohibited.
  • The act(s) of being drunk and disorderly in public view, including on public sidewalks and walkways, is prohibited.
  • The consumption of alcoholic beverages in a public place (unless licensed for consumption of alcohol on the premises) is prohibited. This includes a prohibition of alcoholic beverages in public areas of academic facilities, recreation fields, university housing corridors and lounges.
  • The act of driving a motor vehicle or a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol is prohibited.
  • The possession of an alcoholic beverage in an open container in a motor vehicle or on a bicycle is prohibited regardless of who is driving or whether one is intoxicated.

State and federal criminal sanctions

The following is a brief summary of the state and federal criminal sanctions that may be imposed upon someone who violates the alcohol and other drug policy at USC or elsewhere in the state of California.

  • A violation of California law for the unlawful sale of alcohol may include imprisonment in the county jail for six months, plus fines and penalties.
  • A violation of California law for the use of alcohol by obviously intoxicated individuals will vary with the particular circumstances but may include imprisonment in the county jail and substantial fines and penalties. Additionally, minors who are arrested for violations concerning the use of alcohol run the risk of having their driving privileges suspended or revoked until they are 18.
  • A violation of California law for the possession, use and/or sale of narcotics, marijuana and/or other illicit drugs includes imprisonment in the county jail or state prison for one to nine years, plus fines up to $100,000 for each count.
  • A violation of federal law for the possession, use and/or sale of narcotics, marijuana and/or other illicit drugs may include imprisonment in the federal penitentiary for one to fifteen years plus substantial financial penalties.
  • A violation of the law involving an individual being under the influence of a combination of alcohol and other drugs (itself potentially deadly), may result in an increase in criminal sanctions and penalties.

Actions taken for policy violations

Student involvement in illegal underage consumption of alcohol or the manufacture, use, possession, distribution or sale of illicit drugs is illegal and against university policy, and will subject a student involved in such activity to disciplinary action. Depending on the nature of the violation, university sanctions may include educational intervention, mandated community reparations, suspension, or expulsion.

In addition to the sanctions imposed by the university, individuals who have violated state and federal law regarding possession, use, and/or distribution of alcohol and other drugs may be referred by the university to the appropriate authorities for arrest and prosecution.

When problems arise due to alcohol and other drug use and abuse, the university’s goal is to provide employees, whenever possible, with options for assessment, recommendations, counseling, referrals and/or treatment. In the event that a faculty or staff member violates university policy the individual may be subject to university disciplinary sanctions up to and including dismissal, in addition to federal, state and municipal legal action and penalties. Thus, self-referral and early detection and referral is critical to the rehabilitation of employees. Disciplinary procedures for faculty are discussed in the USC Faculty Handbook; for staff, that information is available in the Staff Disciplinary Practices policy.

Smoke-free policy

To provide a safe and healthy environment for all of our faculty, staff and students, the university maintains a smoke-free policy. Questions regarding the smoke-free policy should be directed to Risk Management at (213) 740-6204.

Special requirements for those working on or with federal contracts and grants

The Federal Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 (Public Law 100-690, Title V, Subtitle D) and the State Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1990 require that university employees directly engaged in the performance of work on a federal or state contract or grant shall abide by this policy as a condition of employment.

USC’s Department of Contracts and Grants must be notified within five calendar days if an employee working on a contract or grant supported by federal funds is convicted of any criminal drug statute violation occurring in the workplace or while on university business. The university is required to notify the federal contracting or granting agency within ten calendar days of receiving notice of such conviction and to take appropriate corrective action or to require the employee to participate satisfactorily in available counseling, treatment and approved substance abuse assistance or rehabilitation programs within thirty calendar days of having received notice of such conviction.

Responsible Office

Student Affairs
(213) 740-2421

Issued by

University of Southern California