Drug and Alcohol Policies and Programs



Drug and Alcohol Policy

Western Governors University (WGU) is committed to maintaining a drug-free, healthy, and safe working and learning environment.  While WGU recognizes that students generally participate in their educational activities in private settings, it discourages students from drug and alcohol abuse, misuse, and the possession or manufacture of illicit substances. Behaviors arising from such actions which violate the Code of Student Conduct may result in disciplinary sanctions. Further, students participating in WGU sponsored gatherings, events, or field experiences are expressly forbidden from the Illegal use, possession or distribution of alcohol or any controlled substance.


Violations of this policy will be referred for adjudication under the Code of Student Conduct and may result in suspension or disciplinary expulsion.



Assistance Services

Due to the nature of the university, WGU uses a third-party provider for students who are in need of services. Students experiencing issues related to drug or alcohol abuse are encouraged to access:


WGU WellConnect  for Students

This service includes self-serve modules on a variety of topics including drug addiction, binge drinking, and alcohol abuse.



Health Risks Associated with Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Although initial drug use might be voluntary, drug abuse has been shown to alter gene expression and brain circuitry, which in turn affects human behavior. Once addiction develops, these brain changes interfere with an individual’s ability to make voluntary decisions, leading to compulsive drug craving, seeking, and use.

The impact of addiction can be far reaching. Cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and lung disease can all be affected by drug abuse. Some of these effects occur when drugs are used at high doses or after prolonged use, however, some may occur after just one use.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (www.drugabuse.gov) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (www.niaaa.nih.gov), health effects of specific substances are as follows:

  • Nicotine is an addictive stimulant found in cigarettes and other forms of tobacco. Tobacco smoke increases a user’s risk of cancer, emphysema, bronchial disorders, and cardiovascular disease.
  • Alcohol consumption can damage the brain and most body organs. Areas of the brain that are especially vulnerable to alcohol-related damage are the cerebral cortex (largely responsible for our higher brain functions, including problem solving and decision making), the hippocampus (important for memory and learning), and the cerebellum (important for movement coordination). Drinking too much alcohol, on a single occasion or over time, can also cause damage to the heart, liver, and pancreas.  It can also lead to greater risk of certain cancers and weakens the immune system making the body more susceptible to infection.
  • Marijuana is the most commonly abused illegal substance. This drug impairs short-term memory and learning, the ability to focus attention, and coordination. It also increases heart rate, can harm the lungs, and can increase the risk of psychosis in those with an underlying vulnerability.
  • Prescription medications, including opioid pain relievers (such as OxyContin® and Vicodin®), anti-anxiety sedatives (such as Valium® and Xanax®), and ADHD stimulants (such as Adderall® and Ritalin®), are commonly misused to self-treat for medical problems or abused for purposes of getting high or (especially with stimulants) improving performance. However, misuse or abuse of these drugs (that is, taking them other than exactly as instructed by a doctor and for the purposes prescribed) can lead to addiction and even, in some cases, death. Opioid pain relievers, for instance, are frequently abused by being crushed and injected or snorted, greatly raising the risk of addiction and overdose. Unfortunately, there is a common misperception that because medications are prescribed by physicians, they are safe even when used illegally or by another person than they were prescribed for.
  • Inhalants are volatile substances found in many household products, such as oven cleaners, gasoline, spray paints, and other aerosols, that induce mind-altering effects; they are frequently the first drugs tried by children or young teens. Inhalants are extremely toxic and can damage the heart, kidneys, lungs, and brain. Even a healthy person can suffer heart failure and death within minutes of a single session of prolonged sniffing of an inhalant.
  • Cocaine is a short-acting stimulant, which can lead users to take the drug many times in a single session (known as a “binge”). Cocaine use can lead to severe medical consequences related to the heart and the respiratory, nervous, and digestive systems.
  • Amphetamines, including methamphetamine, are powerful stimulants that can produce feelings of euphoria and alertness. Methamphetamine’s effects are particularly long-lasting and harmful to the brain. Amphetamines can cause high body temperature and can lead to serious heart problems and seizures.
  • MDMA (Ecstasy or "Molly") produces both stimulant and mind-altering effects. It can increase body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and heart-wall stress. MDMA may also be toxic to nerve cells.
  • LSD is one of the most potent hallucinogenic, or perception-altering, drugs. Its effects are unpredictable, and abusers may see vivid colors and images, hear sounds, and feel sensations that seem real but do not exist. Users also may have traumatic experiences and emotions that can last for many hours.
  • Heroin is a powerful opioid drug that produces euphoria and feelings of relaxation. It slows respiration, and its use is linked to an increased risk of serious infectious diseases, especially when taken intravenously. People who become addicted to opioid pain relievers sometimes switch to heroin instead, because it produces similar effects and may be cheaper or easier to obtain.
  • Steroids, which can also be prescribed for certain medical conditions, are abused to increase muscle mass and to improve athletic performance or physical appearance. Serious consequences of abuse can include severe acne, heart disease, liver problems, stroke, infectious diseases, depression, and suicide.
  • Drug combinations. A particularly dangerous and common practice is the combining of two or more drugs. The practice ranges from the co-administration of legal drugs, like alcohol and nicotine, to the dangerous mixing of prescription drugs, to the deadly combination of heroin or cocaine with fentanyl (an opioid pain medication). Whatever the context, it is critical to realize that because of drug–drug interactions, such practices often pose significantly higher risks than the already harmful individual drugs.

Legal Sanctions

In addition to university sanctions, the unlawful possession, use, or distribution of illicit drugs and alcohol may result in legal sanctions according to local, state, and federal law. Please see the following resources for more information:




Article Number: 20458, 2908

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