For Faculty & Staff

Identify and Refer Students at Risk

Because of their regular contact with students, faculty and staff are often among the first to notice that a student is having personal problems. While you are not expected to take on the role of counselor, you may be well positioned to connect a student to available help.

Potential Warning Signs of an Alcohol or Other Drug Problem

  • Deterioration in work/academic performance, including increased tardiness, absences or requests for extensions.
  • Recurring substance-related legal problems, including trouble with campus authorities.
  • Continued use despite ongoing interpersonal problems that are caused or worsened by drinking.
  • Mood changes such as temper flare-ups, irritability and defensiveness.
  • Physical or mental indicators such as memory lapses, lack of personal hygiene, bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination or slurred speech.
  • Disclosure, by a student, that there might be a drinking or drug problem.
  • Multiple signs and a pattern (versus a single episode) make it more likely that there is a significant problem.

Numerous studies of U.S. college students demonstrate that substance misuse and abuse negatively affects students' academic performance, engagement with faculty, overall health and the quality of campus and community life.

For statistics related to high-risk drinking and other drug use by college students, review The Impact of Alcohol on Academic Performance (pdf) or visit

Drinking and Other Drugs at Northwestern

The following responses came from a 2012 Alcohol and Other Drug Survey completed by 653 Northwestern undergraduates.

As a result of drinking or other drug use:

  • 33% had studying disrupted as a result of other students' drinking
  • 26% missed class
  • 21% performed poorly on a test or important project
  • 14% were hurt or injured
  • 39% had a black out/couldn't remember things that happened
  • 31% engaged in public misconduct (such as trouble with police, fighting/argument, DUI, vandalism)
  • 10% thought they might have a problem