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Alcohol and Other Drug Counseling & Support

The College is committed to providing guidance so that students can learn to develop a responsible approach to social challenges, including those relating to alcohol and other drugs (AOD). Swarthmore students have access to an AOD specialist who provides prevention programming, clinical care, and consultation to the campus community.

Scheduling for Spring 2024

Your AOD Counselor & Educator will resume regular appointments on January 22, 2024.  Single, monthly, bi-weekly, and weekly counseling is available to help support all of your behavioral health needs. To schedule an appointment, please contact Joshua Ellow at or 610-957-6152.  Josh is a licensed, experienced provider who has supported individuals and communities for over 20 years. Josh specializes in substance-related harm reduction and trauma-specific modalities while meetings students where they are in their process of change.  He is certified as an Advanced Drug and Alcohol Counselor (CAADC) and a Co-Occurring Disorder Professional Diplomat (CCDP-D; mental health concurrent with substance use patterns) and has achieved a terminal degree of Ph.D. Josh is located in the Worth Health Center and is one of the key confidential clinicians on campus.


The BE WELL Initiative


Drug and alcohol-related conversations extend beyond simply using substances.  Our relationship with alcohol and other drugs regularly impacts many areas of our wellbeing, including our relationships, responsibilities, and mood.  As a result, your AOD Counselor and Educator works from a holistic frame and supports the BE WELL initiative here at Swarthmore College.  To learn more about this initiative, click here.

Updated BE WELL Logo

Photo credit: Swarthmore College


Assistance for Overcoming Drug and Alcohol Challenges

Swarthmore College maintains the local, state, and federal laws governing alcohol and drug abuse, while upholding an in-house AOD policy. For additional information on these expectations, please refer to the student handbook.

In regards to the campus environment, Swarthmore College endorses a substance-free experience for all community members. When drug or alcohol problems begin to arise, the AOD Counselor and Educator will assist the situation and make recommendations therein. In some cases involving violations of the Student Code of Conduct, the College may include specific suggestions relating to AOD health and development.


AOD and You

Alcohol and other drug (AOD) decisions often stem from our upbringing, beliefs, peer norms, and media messaging. Akin to our development of other wellness behaviors (e.g., sleep, diet, stress reduction, etc.), it is critical to be in the driver’s seat of your AOD decision-making. Because social norms are such an important contributor to AOD choices, the following norms poster helps to accurately describe life at Swarthmore.  

These statistics were gathered from the 2021 AOD survey. For additional information, or to obtain additional social norms signage, please contact the AOD Counselor & Educator.

Photo credit: Swarthmore College

Drugs 101

Drugs are most often viewed in categories based on their bodily effects.  Generally, we can think of them as uppers, downers, and all-arounders. "Uppers, downers, and all-arounders" refers to the impact on one’s Central Nervous System (CNS), psychological experience, or related functioning.  Refer below for some common categories of drugs.

Stimulants & Nootropics

 Once ingested, stimulants cause feelings of wakefulness, locomotion, and a reduced need for sleep; all while increasing one’s heart-rate. At higher doses, this class of drugs may lead to increased anxiety, heart failure, and even psychotic episodes including hallucinations and paranoia.  Common stimulants include Cocaine, Caffeine, Energy Drinks, Adderall, and other “study drugs”. Regarding medical use, always check with your prescriber if unwanted side-effects develop, and keep your prescriptions safe.  Click here to learn more about safe storage of medications.

Depressants & Anti-Anxiety-Inducers

 Alcohol, Xanax, Klonopin, many anxiety meds, and even low doses of Marijuana are found in this category.  These drugs commonly provide a reduction in stress levels, although some people do react conversely and become agitated. Furthermore, Depressants interfere with one’s decision making, memory, and judgment, while having a high potential for abuse or dependence. Many of these drugs provide relief from tension; however, combining two or more CNS depressants can reduce respiratory rates to unsafe levels.  Accordingly, if you consume Alcohol and expect to begin a new medication, inform you prescriber and refer to the warning label for possible contraindications.

Cannabis, THC, and THC Analogues

Cannabis is a complex variety of the hemp plant Cannabis Sativa. The consumption of cannabis produces varying changes in one’s biopsychosocial and spiritual experience due the chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, also called THC. THC binds to naturally occurring receptors in our body called cannabinoid receptors.  Once activated, this drug can act like a stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogen depending on the type and strength of the plant.  Specific short-term effects of cannabis include changes in thinking, attitude, and attention, which are effected by individual predispositions.  Long-term effects include higher incidence of mental health conditions and possible dependence.   Until 2013, Cannabis Dependence did not include a physical component; however, current research now indicates the prolonged consumption of cannabis will cause physical withdrawal in addition to mental obsessions and a drop in IQ. Furthermore, researchers have found that even casual cannabis smokers are displaying abnormalities in areas of the brain related to emotion, motivation, and decision-making. This may be directly related to the strength of today’s cannabis. Recently, legal variants of THC have become available. Labeled as Delta-8, Delta-10, or THC-0, these THC analogues are not well studied or controlled for potency or consistency.  Accordingly, it's important to remember . . . Just because something is legal, doesn't mean it's safe or better than an illegal or controlled substance.


Opioids are commonly viewed as a type of pain killer.  These strong drugs are prescribed as Percocet, Vicodin, Oxycontin, and Codeine to name a few.  Opioids also include Heroin, Fentanyl, and Carfentanil.  These substances bind to Opioid receptors in our head and stomach, which change the perception of pain and mood.  Opioids put strain on an individual’s breathing, and should therefore be viewed as a CNS depressant, even when some users feels energetic when using. Opioids are well tolerated by the body from a long-term perspective, but often require larger doses over time to achieve the same effect.  This physical change (tolerance) causes mental urges, or cravings, and can lead to dependence. Opioid Dependence is a mental health disorder, as well as a medical diagnosis, due to the immense changes that are beyond an individual’s control.  Upon cessation, a person with an Opioid Dependence will have unpleasant experiences of anxiety, flu-like symptoms, and exaggerated sensations of emotional and physical pain. Current research supports the use of medication assisted therapy, counseling, and related supports to overcome challenges with all Opioids.  

Hallucinogens & Psychedelics

 Hallucinogens are a special class of drugs because their effects may be unpredictable.  Mood, physiology, environment, and even one’s beliefs can greatly influence the experience.  Hallucinogens have a long history of ceremonial use across the globe and within spiritual and mental health practices, some of which still occur today.  Drugs in this category include LSD, MDMA (“Molly”), DMT, Ketamine, PCP, DXM, and Cannabis at high doses.  Please note, that a “pure” or natural hallucinogen does not make is safer.  Once ingested, these chemicals disrupt the normal electro-chemical processes within the body. This causes significant changes in perception of self, time, and space.  These changes may last between 2-24 hours (and even longer in some cases), and must run their course before the experience ends. 

Daily Strategies to Promote Your Wellbeing Post Pandemic

The National Alliance on Mental Illness recommends daily strategies for self-care and awareness.  The following summary was adapted from the NCAA website, and reviews general recommendations:

  • Space. Create a structured, dedicated work environment, and include regular patterns of self- care
  • Routine. Try to maintain a routine that reflects your normal day routine, including structured breaks for lunch and mini-breaks
  • Activity. Regular exercise and mindfulness activities, such as Yoga, are key during times of crisis
  • Time and Energy Management. Try to structure your daily work as a way to practice time management and practice self-compassion
  • Accessibility. Develop ways in which you are accessible to friends, peers, and family
  • Face Time and Connectivity. Humans need to feel and be connected whether through electronic platforms or other
  • Resources. Map out your important resources, ranging from daily necessities to emergency management
  • Support. The National Alliance on Mental Health Illness website provides some possible resources. Know that there is help when needed.

Even as we move beyond the peak of the pandemic, your Alcohol and Other Drug Counselor & Educator encourages all students, staff, faculty, and campus-connected families to prioritize their mental health while adapting to change.  If you or someone you care about has a mental health condition or anxiety stemming from the viral pandemic, please consider the following resources from Mental Health America and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Treatment Options

The following treatment options are a summary of the American Society of Addiction Medicine's levels of care.  If you or someone you care about is struggling with a substance-related issue, please consider contacting Swarthmore's Alcohol and Other Drug Counselor & Educator for a personalized review of these options.

Early Intervention Services

These options are for individuals who may be at risk of developing a substance-related problem.  Specific early intervention services could include psycho-educational individual or group engagement, short-term brief interventions, and some forms of counseling.

Outpatient Services

Outpatient services are capable of assisting persons with mild drug and alcohol problems or even a formal Substance Use Disorders.  Behavioral health professionals will usually incorporate a biopsychosocial assessment and determine the approach number of outpatient sessions (per week or per month) to promote overall health and wellness.

Medically-Managed Outpatient Services

This is a unique consideration when it comes to treatment options.  Typically, this level of care is for individuals who have developed a physical dependence to a substance for which an outpatient treatment medication is available.  For example, outpatient buprenorphine treatment is available for opioid dependence.  This level of care should only be considered following a thorough evaluation from a medical professional.

Intensive Outpatient and Partial Hospitalization

Like the regular outpatient services, intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization stem from a thorough assessment of an individual's substance use, mental health, treatment readiness, biomedical status, and environmental strengths and challenges.  At these level of care however, it is likely to include additional hours per week while having additional capabilities to treat more serious challenges included psychiatric crises.

Residential and Inpatient Services

At this level of care, patients will generally sleep on-site for additional care and rehabilitation.  These services can vary greatly in the number of hours dedicated to counseling or psychiatric stabilization; however, they regularly staff addiction specialists and include the capabilities to treat more serious co-occurring conditions.

Medically-Managed Services Inpatient Services

This is considered an important level of care for anyone struggling with a serious biomedical or emotional behavioral impairment.  This level of care will regularly include 24hour nursing care to offer stabilization and assure safety.

For Parents, Families, and Friends: Identifying a Substance Use Disorder

If you are wondering when experimental use turns problematic, consider the following review of how a Substance Use Disorder is diagnosed.

Substance use disorders, at times referred to as "abuse," "dependence" and "addiction," are diagnosed if certain criteria occur within a 12-month period as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders from the American Psychiatric Association. The criteria include:

1. The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.

2. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful effort to cut down or control use of the substance.

3. A great deal of time is spent trying to obtain, consume, or recover from the substance.

4. Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use the substance, occurs.

5. Continued use of the substance results in a failure to fulfill major role responsibilities at at school or elsewhere.

6. Use of the substance is contributing to relationship problems.

7. Important social recreational activities are given up or reduced because of use of the substance. This can also relate to employment and hobbies.

8. The substnace use is recurrent in situations in which it is physically hazardous (e.g., driving while intoxicated).

9. Continuing to use the substance despite knowing that it has an impact on physical or psychological problems likely caused by the substance (e.g., drinking with a liver condition or using to relieve mental health distress).

10. Tolerance, which means that the person needs more of a substance to get the desired effect or the same amount no longer produces the desired effect.

11. Withdrawal, such that when the substance is not taken, a person experiences substance-specific withdrawal symptoms.

You’ll note that the DSM does not specify specific amounts that equate to problems (i.e., a six-pack of beer, one gram of cannabis per day, etc.), but rather focuses on a lack of control one develops in many aspects of their life.  People who meet  six or more of the above criteria is considered severe.”Many people experience substance use problems during their life but are able to stop using.  Remember treatment can be effective and change is always possible.

Want to know if your college-bound person is at risk? Complete this 5-6 minute assessment to better understand potential risks relating to wellbeing, family history, and environment.


Campus Resource and Contact Information

Alcohol and Other-Drug Counselor & Educator
Joshua M. Ellow, Ph.D., LSW, CAADC, CCDP-D
Health Center, Room 126


Local and Off-Campus Resources

For Confidential Support

  • Psychological Services: 610-328-8059
  • Worth Health Center: 610-328-8058
  • Religious and Spiritual Staff: 610-328-8328

For General Information

  • Deans' Office: 610-328-8365

In case of acute intoxication or other emergencies:

  • Public Safety: 610-328-8333
    (Call 911 if other resources are not available.)

Online Alcohol Assessment Resources

Logo for alcohol that says, "How much is too much?" in blue



Alcohol is a quick and private way to determine if your alcohol consumption could be negatively impacting your health and wellbeing.

The alcohol screen should only take a few minutes, but answer truthfully. Refer to the privacy policy as needed.

Click the image above to begin your alcohol screening now.

Picture of the 360Proof Logo that notes NCAA DIvision III and NASPA as the developers

The 360PROOF assessment was designed for student athletes; however,  it is a great tool for anyone to explore their alcohol use patterns. This unique assessment uses a Personalized Feedback Index (PFI) is to provide you with tailored information about your alcohol use.  Please note, your personal data will not be identifiable. The questions usually require about 10 minutes to complete, followed by a summary that is specific to your responses.

Click the "360PROOF" icon above to begin the questionnaire.

AOD LIVE: Latest news, Information, Videos, and Entertainment

Complying with the Drug-Free Schools and Campuses Regulations

In adherence with Part 86 of the Drug-Free Schools and Campuses Regulations, Swarthmore College maintains biennial review of it's alcohol and other drug (AOD) prevention efforts, programming, and policy provisions.  A hard copy of this report is stored in the AOD Counselor & Educator's office and an electronic copy is available upon request.  To request a copy of this review or to ask questions, please contact

Alcohol and Other-Drug Counseling & Support