Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Please contact us if you have a question not found below.

Is it bad to build an alcohol tolerance?

For some drinkers, tolerance is seen as a social badge of honor. However, it simply means that one must drink more alcohol in order to feel the same effects previously felt when tolerance was lower.

In addition to consuming more calories and spending more money, during a night of drinking a highly tolerant person could slip into a dangerous level of inebriation without showing much -- or any – corresponding impaired behavior. See the Know your Limit page for more information.

What does it mean to blackout from drinking alcohol?
Alcohol interferes with activity in the hippocampus, which is the main region of the brain that forms and stores memories. Blackouts are periods of memory loss for events that occurred while a person was drinking; this includes very short periods of time through many hours of memory loss. Those short periods of memory loss that people often call “brown outs” are actually partial blackouts. Lengthy periods of memory loss are called en-bloc or full blackouts. Both types of blackouts are more likely to occur when people consume alcohol quickly, causing their BACs to rise rapidly, and/or when people consume greater quantities of alcohol.
Are blacking out and passing out from alcohol the same thing?
No. Passing out from alcohol use is when someone is unconscious.  During a state of blackout, people are still awake and able to participate in a variety of events (such as talking, walking, driving, etc.) without their own/other’s awareness that they are blacked out.
Do men and women process alcohol the same?

Because of biological differences, including body composition and levels of alcohol-metabolizing enzymes, men and women absorb and metabolize alcohol differently. As a result, a woman who consumes the same amount of alcohol as a man will generally experience higher concentrations of alcohol in her blood.

Is alcohol and other drug use common at Northwestern?

The most common drug among undergraduates is alcohol. The prevalence of marijuana and other drugs is far less. Most students who use substances other than alcohol report infrequent use. For detailed information on alcohol use, view the Alcohol Data Dashboard

Is smoking marijuana as bad as smoking cigarettes?

According to, marijuana smoke contains some of the same cancer-causing compounds as cigarettes, sometimes in higher concentrations. Studies show that someone who smokes five joints per week may be taking in as many cancer-causing chemicals as someone who smokes a pack a day.

Can a person become addicted to marijuana?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, long-term marijuana use can lead to addiction. Research has shown that the risk of addiction is higher among people who start using as adolescents and among daily users. Withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, sleeping problems and anxiety can make it difficult for long-term marijuana smokers to quit.

What can I do when someone is experiencing an alcohol or drug emergency?
Always call 911 first so that help can arrive as soon as possible. Whether you know the person or not, you will want to stay with them and tell the responding medical personnel as much information as you can. If you do those three things, you just followed Amnesty through Responsible Action and helped keep our community safer and possibly saved a life!
How can I dispose of my prescription medication safely?

The easiest way is to visit the Pharmacy in Health Service - Evanston (633 Emerson Street) and ask for a self-service mailer. This is a free service for all Northwestern students.

Additionally, you can visit any of the following state-approved drop-off sites right here in Evanston:

City of Evanston Civic Center
2100 Ridge Avenue

Evanston Police Department
1454 Elmwood Avenue

St. Francis Hospital Pharmacy
800 Austin