Substance Information


Excessive alcohol use, including underage drinking and binge drinking, can increase a person’s risk of developing serious health problems, including brain and liver damage, heart disease, hypertension, and fetal damage in pregnant women.

Excessive alcohol use, including underage drinking and binge drinking, can increase a person’s risk of developing serious health problems, including brain and liver damage, heart disease, hypertension, and fetal damage in pregnant women.

For information on alcohol facts and its effects on your brain and body, visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

For information about the treatment of alcohol use disorders, including medication-assisted treatment, visit the Behavioral Health Treatments and Services topic.

For information about alcohol use disorders, see the

Mental and Substance Use Disorders topic.

Click here to learn what counts as a standard drink

For fact sheets about how to read wine, malt beverage, and distilled spirits labels, visit the consumer corner of the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau


Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death.

Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including nearly 42,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure. This is about one in five deaths annually, or 1,300 deaths every day.

For every person who dies because of smoking, at least 30 people live with a serious smoking-related illness.

More information about the use of medications for tobacco use disorders is available in the Behavioral Health Treatments and Services topic. Learn more about trends in tobacco use from 50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General.

Information and resources on tobacco cessation in behavioral health are available on the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center website.


In New York State, it is illegal to possess, sell, offer to sell, or manufacture synthetic cannabinoids.

K2, Synthetic cannabinoids, refer to a growing number of man-made mind-altering chemicals that are either sprayed on dried, shredded plant material so they can be smoked (herbal incense) or sold as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices (liquid incense). These chemicals are not derived from the marijuana plant.

These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they are related to chemicals found in the marijuana plant. Because of this similarity, synthetic cannabinoids are sometimes misleadingly called “synthetic marijuana” (or “fake weed”), and they are often marketed as “safe,” legal alternatives to that drug. In fact, they may affect the brain much more powerfully than marijuana; their actual effects can be unpredictable and, in some cases, severe or even life-threatening.

People who have used synthetic cannabinoids and have been taken to emergency rooms have shown severe effects including:

  • rapid heart rate
  • vomiting
  • violent behavior
  • suicidal thoughts

K2 is packaged under numerous brand names, including: Spice, AK-47, Geeked up, Smacked, Green Giant Scooby Snax, Red Giant, Mr. Bad Guy, iBlown, and Trippy.  Click here for more information.

For more information on the K2 law to criminalize sale and production, read K2 Legislation into Law.

To view the K2 laws (Int. No. 917-A, Int. No. 897, Int. No. 885-A) visit the NYC Council Legislative Research Center.



Opioids are a class of drugs chemically similar to alkaloids found in opium poppies. Historically they have been used as painkillers, but they also have great potential for misuse. Repeated use of opioids greatly increases the risk of developing an opioid use disorder. The use of illegal opiate drugs such as heroin and the misuse of legally available pain relievers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone can have serious negative health effects. According to the CDC, 44 people die every day in the United States from overdose of prescription painkillers.

For information about the treatment of opioid use disorders, visit the topics


Stimulants make people more alert, increase their attention, and raise their blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. Stimulants come in a variety of forms, including amphetamines, cocaine, and methamphetamines. Prescription medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are also often stimulants. Improper use of stimulants (other than when used as prescribed by a doctor) can lead to hostility, paranoia, and even psychotic symptoms. Improper stimulant use can also result in unsafely elevated body temperature, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, and seizures.

Click Here For More Information on Prescription Stimulant Medications

Click Here For additional information on cocaine


Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. The plant contains the mind-altering chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other related compounds. Extracts with high amounts of THC can also be made from the cannabis plant (see “Marijuana Extracts“).

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States (SAMHSA, 2014). Its use is widespread among young people. According to a yearly survey of middle and high school students, rates of marijuana use have steadied in the past few years after several years of increase.

Heavy cannabis use is associated with cognitive problems and increased risk of mental illness.

The short-term effects of marijuana include problems with memory and learning, distorted perception, difficulty in thinking and problem-solving, and loss of coordination. The use of marijuana increases the risk of developing cancer of the head, neck, lungs, and respiratory tract due to toxins and carcinogens.

Click Here For More Information on Marijuana