The Drug Free Schools and Communities Act (DFSCA)

The Drug Free Schools and Communities Act (DFSCA)


This letter, sent annually, is to formally notify students, faculty and staff of the Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (“GSK’s”) program to prevent the unlawful possession, use or distribution of illicit drugs and alcohol by GSK students and employees. GSK is subject to and complies with The Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (DFSCA), as amended in 1989 and articulated in the U.S. Department of Education’s General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR) Part 86, and will conduct biennial reviews of its drug and alcohol abuse prevention program to ensure its effectiveness, implement any necessary improvements, and confirm that the applicable disciplinary sanctions are consistently enforced.  GSK is the degree-granting arm of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (“MSK”), and both institutions equally apply and enforce the standards, policies and sanctions set forth below.

Standards of Conduct

GSK Policy statement:  Student use, misuse, or abuse of alcohol, any illegal drug, or any controlled substance on Memorial Sloan Kettering premises or while acting in any capacity as a representative of MSK, shall be considered misconduct, and will subject the student to a drug test and/or disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from the GSK. Such misconduct includes, but is not limited to, being under the influence of alcohol, any illegal drug, or any controlled substance. “Under the influence” includes, but is not limited to, the presence of a physically detectable quantity of alcohol, any illegal drug, or any controlled substance in the body considered significant by MSK.

MSK prohibits the unlawful manufacture, possession, use, sale, and distribution of drugs in the workplace.  MSK also prohibits workforce members from being under the influence of alcohol, any illegal drug, or any non-prescribed controlled substance while at work or conducting business as a representative of MSK.  MSK reserves the right to search employees’ belongings while they are on MSK premises.  This helps to ensure the safety and protection of our employees, as well as of patients and visitors. 

A violation of either of these policies shall be grounds for immediate discipline, up to and including dismissal from the GSK and/or termination of employment from MSK.

Conviction for a drug-related offense on or off MSK premises shall be grounds for disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from the GSK and/or termination of employment from MSK.

Students and employees are expected to cooperate fully in any required testing or prescribed treatment program, and with all monitoring requirements. Failure to cooperate may result in disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from the GSK and/or termination of employment from MSK.

Requirements and procedures related to academic and/or job performance and conduct continue to be applicable when a student or employee:

  • has been referred for drug testing and/or treatment;
  • is treated for substance abuse; or
  • has re-enrolled or return to work after treatment for substance abuse

MSK and GSK substance abuse policies do not apply to the student’s or employee’s use of prescription drugs in accordance with a physician’s orders, the consumption of reasonable amounts of alcohol at MSK or GSK-sponsored activities or the consumption of reasonable and appropriate amounts of alcohol by a student or employee when s/he is acting as a representative of MSK.

Legal Sanctions

MSK complies with and abides by all federal, state and local laws and regulations pertaining to drug and alcohol abuse and trafficking.  A student or employee who violates substance abuse policies may be subject to criminal sanctions provided by federal, state, and local law in addition to any sanctions MSK may impose.  

As required by the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988, an employee working on projects funded through federal contracts or grants must notify Human Resources or the Dean’s Office of a conviction of a criminal drug violation that occurred on MSK property within five (5) days of such conviction.  The Institution is required to notify the relevant federal contracting or granting agency within ten (10) days and to take the appropriate personnel action within (30) days of receipt of the notice. A conviction includes:  a plea or finding of guilty, any plea of “nolo contendere,” or an imposition of a fine or penalty.

Federal Trafficking Penalties

An up to date list of federal drug trafficking penalties (by schedule) can be found online. See for a complete listing of drugs by schedule.

Federal Penalties and Sanctions for the Illegal Possession of Controlled Substances:

  • First Conviction – Up to one year’s imprisonment and fine of at least $1,000, or both.
  • After one prior drug conviction – At least 15 days in prison, not to exceed two years and fine of at least $2,500, or both.
  • After two or more prior drug convictions – at least 90 days in prison, not to exceed three years and a fine of at least $5,000, or both.
  • In addition, the offender may be forced to relinquish personal and real property used to possess or facilitate possession of a controlled substance if the violation is punishable by more than one year in prison.  Any vehicle used to transport or conceal a controlled substance must be forfeited and a civil fine may be imposed.  For first-time offenders, federal benefits, such as student loans, grants, contracts, and professional and commercial licenses, can be denied for up to one year.  For the second and subsequent offenses, federal benefits can be denied for up to five years. 

New York State and City Penalties for Drug Possession

New York State law also forbids the possession, use, or distribution of illicit drugs and imposes criminal penalties, which may include imprisonment.  The penalty imposed for a conviction will generally depend upon the specific drug and the amount of the drug held or sold, as well as the individual’s history of prior convictions.  Judges have some discretion to consider the circumstances in sentencing.  The following are a few examples of potential criminal penalties for drug infractions under New York law:

  • The criminal possession of 500 milligrams or more of cocaine is a class D felony, punishable by up to 2½ years in prison.
  • The possession of one-half an ounce of cocaine or more is a Class C felony punishable by 1-9 years in prison.
  • The criminal possession of eight to sixteen ounces of marijuana is a class E felony, punishable by up to 1½ years in prison for a first offense.

This list is not intended to be exhaustive and is subject to change.  The full list of New York State drug crimes and their penalties can be found in the New York Penal Code.

Under New York City law, a person who has been convicted of felony possession or sale of a controlled substance may be subject to a civil penalty between $10,000 and $100,000 for each count that resulted in a conviction and for the costs of the investigation and prosecution of the individual. 

Penalties for Unlawful Distribution of Alcohol

Under both Federal and New York State laws, selling or otherwise furnishing alcohol to an individual under the age of 21 is a misdemeanor punishable by fine and/or imprisonment.  Selling alcohol without a license or permit is unlawful and punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment.

New York State Laws and Regulations:

Health Risks of Substance Abuse

The health consequences of alcohol abuse and substance use may be immediate and unpredictable, such as fatalities associated with alcohol poisoning and drug overdose, or more subtle and long-term, such as liver and brain damage associated with prolonged use of alcohol.

In addition to health-related problems, alcohol abuse and substance use are associated with financial difficulties, interpersonal conflicts, domestic violence, deterioration of the family structure, accidental injuries or fatality, and may significantly impact academic and work performance. 

Selected drugs and their effects

Alcohol and Other Depressants [barbiturates, sedatives, and tranquilizers]

Alcohol, tranquilizers, and sedatives are all considered depressants.  These drugs depress the central nervous system by mimicking either the brain’s natural sedating chemicals or by diminishing the brain’s natural ability to produce stimulating chemicals. 

Short-term effects:  Alcohol consumption causes a number of marked changes in behavior; even low doses significantly impair judgment and coordination.  Moderate to high doses cause significant impairments in higher mental functions, severely altering a person’s ability to learn and remember information.  Very high doses can cause respiratory depression and death.  The effects of other depressants are similar to those of alcohol: large doses can cause slurred speech, poor motor coordination, altered perception, psychosis, hallucinations and paranoid delusions, coma, or death.

Long-term effects:  Long-term effects of using alcohol include addiction, depression, accidents as a result of impaired ability, ulcers, gastritis, pancreatitis, fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, chronic active hepatitis, and cirrhosis.  Long-term use of other depressants can also lead to addiction, including both physical and psychological dependence.  Regular use over time may result in a tolerance to the drug.  Withdrawal symptoms may range from restlessness, insomnia, and anxiety, to convulsions and death. 


Nicotine, one of more than 4,000 chemicals found in the smoke from tobacco products, is the primary component in tobacco that acts on the brain.  Nicotine is absorbed through the skin and mucosal lining of the mouth and nose or by inhalation in the lungs.  Nicotine increases the levels of dopamine in the brain.  The acute effects of nicotine dissipate in a few minutes, causing the smoker to continue dosing frequently throughout the day to maintain the drug’s pleasurable effects and prevent withdrawal. 

Effects:  Select effects include addiction, high blood pressure, emphysema, heart and lung disease, and cancer.


THC [delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol] stores itself in the fatty tissue of the brain, reproductive organs, liver, lungs, and spleen, where it causes tissue damage and hinders normal body function.  In the brain, THC widens the gaps between nerve cells causing decreased transmission of impulses.

Effects:  Use can result in speech, memory and learning problems, physical impairment, and can interfere with judgment, and cause difficulty thinking and solving problems. Use can also elevate anxiety and cause a panic reaction.  Long-term use can cause permanent memory problems.  There is also an increased risk of developing respiratory problems including, but not limited to, cancer. 

Stimulants [Cocaine, Amphetamines, “speed, “uppers”]

Cocaine use interferes with reabsorption of dopamine causing euphoria, which constricts blood vessels, dilates pupils, and increases heart rate and blood pressure.

Effects:  Acute cardiovascular or cerebrovascular emergencies such as heart attack or stroke can result from use, regardless of frequency.  Cocaethylene, created by the liver when cocaine and alcohol are used, increases the chance of sudden death.  Addiction, lung damage, depression, paranoia, and toxic psychosis are also possible.  Similar risks are presented by the use of speed and uppers.

Ecstasy [MDMA, Molly]

Ecstasy is a synthetic drug, and is similar to both methamphetamine and mescaline, which is a hallucinogenic.

Effects:  The drug mainly affects the body by affecting neurons that use the chemical serotonin, which can greatly affect mood, aggression, sexual activity, sleep, and sensitivity to pain.  In high doses, MDMA can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature, which can lead to a sharp increase in body temperature (hyperthermia), resulting in liver, kidney, and cardiovascular system failure. 

Hallucinogens [LSD, PCP]

PCP is a white powder that is readily soluble in water or alcohol.  LSD [lysergic acid diethylamide] is manufactured from lysergic acid, which is found in ergot, a fungus that grows on rye and other grains.  The effects of these substances are unpredictable, and depend on the amount taken, the user’s personality and mood, and the surroundings in which the drug is used. 

Short-term effects:  These drugs alter users’ perception of time and space by changing the way the brain interprets stimuli.  They also increase heart rate and blood pressure, which can lead to coma, or heart and lung failure. High doses can cause symptoms that mimic schizophrenia, such as delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, disordered thinking, a sensation of distance from one’s environment, and catatonia.  Speech is often sparse and garbled.  PCP can be addictive.

Long-term effects:  Flashbacks can occur days, months, or even years after use.  Users can also experience decreased motivation, prolonged depression, increased anxiety, increased delusions and panic, and psychosis such as schizophrenia or severe depression.

Narcotics [Opium, morphine, codeine, heroin]

Narcotics include opium, opium derivatives, and semi-synthetic substitutes of opium derivatives.  Narcotic use is associated with a variety of unwanted effects including drowsiness, inability to concentrate, apathy, lessened physical activity, constriction of the pupils, dilation of the subcutaneous blood vessels causing flushing of the face and neck, constipation, nausea and vomiting, and most significantly, respiratory depression.  As the dose is increased, the subjective, analgesic (pain relief), and toxic effects become more pronounced.

Short-term effects:  Short-term effects include restlessness, irritability, loss of appetite, nausea, tremors, and drug craving.

Long-term effects:  Long term effects include addiction, accidental overdose, risk of hepatitis and AIDS infection from contaminated needles. 

Prescription Drug Abuse

The most commonly misused prescription drugs are:

Painkillers [codeine, Oxycontin, Vicodin, Demerol], CNS depressants [Nembutal, Valium, Xanax], and stimulants [Ritalin, Dexedrine, Adderall].

Short-term effects:  Stimulants and CNS depressants present risks for irregular heartbeat, greatly reduced heart rate, seizures, dangerously increased body temperature, and can cause aggressive or paranoid behavior.

Long-term effects:  The greatest risk from these drugs is the significant chance for dependence.  This can lead to greater doses and increased frequency of use.  Attempting to cease use without proper medical help after dependence has been established can be dangerous and even fatal.

Inhalants [gas, aerosols, glue, nitrites, nitrous oxide]

Inhalants are breathable chemical vapors that produce psychoactive effects.  A variety of products common in the home and the workplace contain substances that can be inhaled:

Solvents:  paint thinners or removers, degreasers, dry-cleaning fluids, gasoline, and glue

Art or office supply solventscorrection fluids, felt-tip-marker fluid, and electronic contact cleaners

Gases [used in household or commercial products]: butane lighters and propane tanks, whipped cream aerosols [whip-its], and refrigerant gases

Household aerosol propellants: contained in items such as spray paints, hair or deodorant sprays, fabric protector sprays, and aerosol computer cleaning products

Medical anesthetic gases: ether, chloroform, halothane, and nitrous oxide

Nitrites: volatiles including cyclohexyl, butyl, and aryl nitrites,  commonly known as “poppers”.  Volatile nitrites are often sold in small brown bottles and labeled as “video head cleaner,” “room odorizer,” “leather cleaner,” or “liquid aroma.”

Short-term effects:  These chemicals slow down the body’s functions, and can cause momentary intoxication which, if continued, can lead to stimulation, reduced inhibition, and ultimately loss of consciousness.  Using solvents or aerosol sprays can induce heart failure and death, known as “sudden sniffing death.”  This effect is mostly associated with butane, propane, and chemicals in aerosols. 

Long-term effects:  These chemicals can cause severe damage to the brain, liver, and kidneys. Specifically, they can cause hearing loss, peripheral neuropathies([limb spasms), central nervous system damage, and even bone marrow damage.


GHB [gamma hydroxybutyrat] is a central nervous system depressant.  It is made from gamma butyrolactone and sodium or potassium hydroxide, which means that it is essentially degreasing solvent or floor stripper combined with drain cleaner.  In liquid form it is usually clear and looks like water.  GHB and two of its precursors, gamma butyrolactone [GBL] and 1,4 butanediol [BD] have been characterized as predatory drugs used to commit acts of sexual violence.

Effects:  Abuse of GHB can cause amnesia, coma and/or seizures, inability to move, or impaired speech.  There is also a risk of death, especially when combined with alcohol or other drugs.

Substance abuse, whether alcohol or drug, is harmful to your health. Please take the time to read more information about the harmful effects of alcohol and drug abuse cited below:

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism


National Institute on Drug Abuse


More information about controlled substances can be found in Title 21 United States Code (USC) Controlled Substances Act, Section 811.    

Drug and Alcohol Programs

If you have questions or issues about alcohol and other drugs, there are resources at MSK where you can get help. You may contact Magellan Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and/or Employee Health & Wellness Services (“EH&WS”).  These services are readily available to students and employees who voluntarily seek counseling and rehabilitation.  Magellan EAP offers free confidential short-term counseling and supportive services 24/7/365 to students, employees and family members. Licensed counselors are available in person, by phone, or via messaging therapy (Talkspace). 

For more information or to find care, call Magellan EAP at 800-327-8793 or go to

Employee Health & Wellness Services is located at 222 E. 70th Street, has a satellite office in room MG-03 at 1275 York Avenue, and can be reached at (646) 888-4000.

If a student or staff member shows signs or symptoms of illness or impairment, you should notify your supervisor, Human Resources, EH&WS, or the confidential MSK Compliance Hotline (844-MSKLine). 

Other Resources

MSK Main Security


Administrator On Call

Beeper: 1521; iPhone: 646.581.3582

Paging Operator

212.639.2000 (main line) | 212.639.6680 (private line)

Emergency Dial


Alcoholics Anonymous   (AA)


Women for Sobriety


Smart Recovery Self-Help Network


Narcotics Anonymous


Cocaine Anonymous


Disciplinary Sanctions


Anyone observing something in an individual’s performance or behavior that indicates that this individual may be violating GSK’s Substance Abuse policy should refer the matter to the Dean of the GSK. The Dean will contact an HR Legal & Regulatory representative for evaluation and advice, and may contact EH&WS when appropriate.

If the observation occurs outside of normal business hours, the available Administrator on Call and/or Nursing Supervisor should be contacted. In consultation with the Dean, the AOC and/or Nursing Supervisor will determine whether or not to refer the employee to the Urgent Care Center. The Nursing Supervisor can be contacted by calling the Page Operator at telephone 639-7900 and asking to speak to the Nursing Supervisor. The AOC can be contacted at the above numbers.

The student exhibiting concerning behavior or performance may be placed on academic probation and informed not to return to class/laboratory pending a discussion with the mentor, an HR Legal & Regulatory representative, and the EH&WS Medical Director of Employee Health Service (or designee). The employee demonstrating this behavior or performance may be suspended with or without pay and subject to additional corrective action up to and including termination of employment.

The student or employee may be asked to undergo drug and alcohol testing to determine whether or not GSK’s policy has been violated. At this time the student or employee will be required to sign a release giving EH&WS permission to release drug and alcohol test results to HR, if such testing is done.  The signing of this release is mandatory and a condition of continued enrollment and/or employment.  If the student or employee refuses to sign the release, it should be so indicated on the Consent Form, and EH&WS will contact HR to discuss next steps.

If it is suspected or known that a student or employee has violated GSK’s Substance Abuse policy, including refusal to be tested for drugs and alcohol, to release the results of those tests or to cooperate in a required or recommended treatment program, the matter should be referred to the Dean of the GSK or HR Legal & Regulatory Affairs. A determination will then be made as to the action to be taken. This determination will result from discussion between the student’s mentor, the Dean of the GSK, an HR Legal & Regulatory representative and, when appropriate, a representative from EH&WS, and actions that may be required include, but are not limited to:

  • referral to the EAP;
  • referral to an outside program for either in patient or out-patient treatment;
  • periodic medical follow-up by EH&WS or EAP;
  • disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from the GSK and/or termination of employment; and
  • referral for prosecution

In closing, we ask that you carefully review the information contained in this annual notification.  The GSK Student Faculty Guide, available on GSK’s website, will continue to maintain updated information related to our policies on substance abuse.

Resources for GSK Students

Michael Overholtzer, PhD
Dean, GSK

Linda D. Burnley
Associate Dean, GSK

Ushma Neill, PhD
Vice President, Scientific Education and Training, SKI
Tel: 646-888-2011

Thomas Magaldi, PhD
Assistant Dean, GSK
Tel: 646-888-3507

Leslie Ballantyne, Esq.
MSK HR Legal & Regulatory Affairs, MSK
Tel: 646-227-2742

Kristen Ahearn, Esq.
Associate General Counsel, MSK Director, Compliance and Privacy Officer
Tel: 646-227-2034

Melissa Maxwell-Avila
Human Resources Business Partner, MSK
Tel: 646-227-3888

Magellan Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
Tel: 800-327-8793

Licensed counselors are available to assist in person, by phone, or via messaging therapy (Talkspace) to support a broad range of issues. For more information or to find care, call Magellan EAP at 800-327-8793 or go to    

Free, professional, confidential counseling

MSK Employee Health & Wellness Services (EH&WS)
222 E. 70th Street (and a satellite office in room MG-03 at 1275 York Ave) Tel: 646-888-4000

Anyone observing something in an individual’s performance or behavior that indicates that this individual may be violating this policy should refer the matter to the Dean of GSK. The Dean should contact an Employee Relations representative for evaluation and advice. Employee Relations will contact Employee Health Service when appropriate.

Other Counseling Resources for GSK Students:

Magellan, MSK’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) partner, offers free confidential short-term counseling and supportive services 24/7/365. For more information or to find care, call Magellan EAP at 800-327-8793 or go to     

Ann Martin/ Penny Damaskos from the social work department at MSK: martin1@MSKCC.ORG, 212-610-0414; DamaskP1@MSKCC.ORG, 212-639-7729

Arthur Brown from Employee Health & Wellness: brown2@MSKCC.ORG, 646-888-4001

William Breitbart, MD, the chair of MSK’s Psychiatry department: breitbaw@MSKCC.ORG, 646-888-0020

Jill Bowden, MSK’s chaplain:, 212-639-5982

03/18/19 rev.