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Drugs and Alcohol



EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2015


Vanderbilt University is concerned about the health and welfare of its faculty and staff. In compliance with the federal Drug-Free Schools and Campuses regulations, Vanderbilt has adopted a policy that requires faculty and staff to comply with federal, state and local laws, including those relating to alcoholic beverages, narcotics and other drugs.

The University prohibits the unlawful possession, use or distribution of alcohol and illicit drugs by faculty and staff on its property or as part of any University-sponsored activity. The prohibition extends to off-campus activities that are officially sponsored by Vanderbilt, its schools, departments or organizations. In addition, the prohibition extends to off-campus professional or organizational activities, including attendance at conferences, when participation is sponsored by the University, or when the participant is representing the University. Finally, the prohibition extends to “private” events off-campus where the University may have an interest.


University Sanctions

In addition to the standards of conduct prohibited by law and University policy, faculty and staff are subject to the additional requirements, disciplinary standards and procedures promulgated by their respective schools, departments and organizations. The University will impose disciplinary sanctions on faculty and staff, up to and including termination of employment and referral for prosecution, for violation of the alcohol and illicit drug policy. Conditions of continued employment may include the completion of an appropriate rehabilitation program. Faculty and staff should refer to the Faculty Manual, the Human Resources Policies and Procedures website at (including but not limited to the Progressive Discipline policy), the Vanderbilt University Alcohol and Drug Use Policy and any applicable union contract.

Legal Sanctions Under State and Federal Law

The following is a summary of Tennessee and federal sanctions for the unlawful use of illicit drugs and alcohol. While the summary is a good faith effort to provide information, Vanderbilt does not guarantee that it is an error-free or exhaustive accounting

Under federal law, a civil penalty of up to $100,000 and imprisonment of up to one year may be imposed for simple possession of certain specified controlled substances. Possession of crack cocaine may lead to civil penalties of up to $250,000 and imprisonment of up to twenty years. Also, possession of a controlled substance can result in the denial of federal benefits, such as student loans, grants, contracts and professional and commercial licenses, and the forfeiture of personal property and real estate used to transport, conceal or facilitate such possession. In addition, possession of a controlled substance can lead to ineligibility to receive or purchase a firearm.

Under federal law, it is unlawful to manufacture, distribute, dispense, deliver, sell or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, dispense, deliver or sell controlled substances. The penalty imposed depends upon many factors that include the type and amount of controlled substance involved; the number or prior offenses, if any; whether death or serious bodily harm resulted from the use of such substance; and whether any other crimes were committed in connection with the use of the controlled substance. Even a first-time violation can result in life imprisonment; a fine of up to $4,000,000 per individual; supervised release; or any combination of these penalties. These sanctions are doubled when the offense involves either: (1) distribution or possession at or near a school or university campus, or (2) distribution to persons under 21 years of age. Repeat offenders may face greater penalties.

Under Tennessee law, it is unlawful for any person under the age of 21 to buy, possess, transport (unless in the course of their employment) or consume alcoholic beverages, including wine or beer. It is unlawful for any adult to buy alcoholic beverages for or furnish them for any purpose to anyone under 21 years of age. These offenses are classified Class A Misdemeanors punishable by imprisonment for not more than eleven months and twenty-nine days or a fine of not more than $2,500 or both. The offense of public intoxication is a Class A Misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of not more than thirty days or a fine of not more than $50 or both.

Under Tennessee law, the offense of possession or casual exchange of a controlled substance (such as marijuana) is punishable as a Class A Misdemeanor (eleven months, twenty-nine days and/or a fine of $2,500). For the third and subsequent offense of possession of ½ oz. or less of marijuana, punishment is one to six years of imprisonment and a $3,000 fine. If there is an exchange from a person over 21 years of age to a person under 21 and the older person is at least two years older than the younger and the older person knows that the younger person is under 21, then the offense is classified as a felony. Possession of more than ½ oz. of marijuana under circumstances where intent to resell may be implicit is punishable by one to six years of imprisonment and a $5,000 fine for the first offense. Maximum Tennessee penalties for possession, manufacture or distribution of substantial quantities of a controlled substance range from fifteen to sixty years of imprisonment and up to a $500,000 fine. The State of Tennessee may, under certain circumstances, impound a vehicle used to transport or conceal controlled substances.


Vanderbilt University is interested in the continued good health and personal well-being of the faculty and staff. Counseling and treatment are available through on-campus programs. The Employee Assistance Program offers a range of services, including voluntary and confidential professional services and the Physician’s Wellness Program (FPWP), to assist faculty and staff with personal problems, such as alcohol and drug abuse. Faculty and staff may contact the Employee Assistance program at 936-1327. In addition, the Psychological and Counseling Center offers individual counseling and group support programs at 322-2571.


Effects of alcohol abuse

Alcohol consumption causes a number of marked changes in behavior. Even low doses significantly impair the judgment and coordination required to drive a car safely, increasing the likelihood that the driver will be involved in an accident. Low to moderate doses of alcohol also increase the incidence of a variety of aggressive acts, including spouse and child abuse. Moderate to high doses of alcohol cause marked impairments in higher mental functions, severely altering a person’s ability to learn and remember information. Very high doses cause respiratory depression and death. If combined with other depressants of the central nervous system, much lower doses of alcohol can produce the same serious effects.

Repeated use of alcohol can lead to dependence. Sudden cessation of alcohol intake is likely to produce withdrawal symptoms, including severe anxiety, tremors, hallucinations and convulsions. Alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening. Long-term consumption of large quantities of alcohol, particularly when combined with poor nutrition, can also lead to permanent damage to vital organs such as the brain and liver. Some studies suggest that brain cells are actually permanently lost and killed by high levels of alcohol.

Women who drink alcohol during pregnancy may give birth to infants with fetal alcohol syndrome. These infants have irreversible physical abnormalities and mental retardation. In addition, research indicates that children of alcoholic parents are at greater risk than others of becoming alcoholics.

Effects of illicit drugs

Stimulants (amphetamines/cocaine): Amphetamines, and their new derivatives “crystal,” “ice” and Ecstasy, have short and long-term health effects. Long-term health effects include insomnia, impotence, seizures, paranoia, hallucinations, delusions and death. These compounds are very addictive and may also produce psychotic and violent behavior. Cocaine, crack and related forms can produce nasal bleeding, psychosis, seizures and death. Most forms of stimulants have a high risk of physical and psychological dependence.

Depressants (barbiturates/heroin/tranquilizers): Depressants are usually used for their sedative or hypnotic effects. They can also cause jaundice, nausea, depression, seizures, impotence, depression of the respiratory and circulatory systems, coma and death. Most of these drugs have a high risk of physical and psychological dependence, and some can be fatal if mixed with alcohol or other depressants. Withdrawal can produce convulsions or even coma. Overdose is common and can result in death. Needle-drug users are in a high-risk group for infection with human immunodeficiency virus, or AIDS.

Other Drugs (cannibis/hallucinogens): Marijuana and related compounds can produce an altered sense of reality. Marijuana is usually smoked, and like tobacco, it is very toxic to the lungs. Disorders of memory (loss) and of mood often occur in chronic users. Hallucinogens such as LSD and PCP are used to produce “altered states” to escape reality. They are very dangerous and can cause psychosis.

Additional information on the legal sanctions and health risks is available on the University website at .


This policy is intended as a guideline to assist in the consistent application of University policies and programs for employees. The policy does not create a contract implied or expressed, with any Vanderbilt employees, who are employees at will. Vanderbilt reserves the right to modify this policy in whole or in part, at any time, at the discretion of the University.


Approved by Traci K. Nordberg, Chief Human Resources Officer and Associate Vice Chancellor

Approved by Eric Kopstain, Vice Chancellor for Administration