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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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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 “brownouts” are actually fragmentary 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. More information on blackouts can be found at

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 males and females process alcohol the same?

In short, no. This is because of biological differences, including body composition and levels of alcohol-metabolizing enzymes, males* and females* absorb and metabolize alcohol differently. As a result, a female who consumes the same amount of alcohol as a male will generally experience higher concentrations of alcohol in their blood.

*A note as to why we use biological sex – We recognize and appreciate that not all individuals identify within these binary constructs. The purpose of using these terms is because research is based on the physiological variables specific to one’s biological sex and not related to their gender identity. Unfortunately, the research available at this time also has not focused on Intersex and Trans individuals

Is substance use common at NU?

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. 

Is smoking cannabis as bad as smoking cigarettes?

According to, cannabis 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 Cannabis?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, long-term cannabis 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 cannabis 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

What are the health benefits of cannabis in treating certain ailments?

Cannabis in general and cannabinoids such as CBD have long been hailed as having healing properties. Much of this is anecdotal rather than clinically proven through research and trials. There is currently a scarce body of medical research to support such claims. Consult a medical professional before using cannabis to treat health conditions that have proven medical treatments to ensure you adequately address the condition. Cannabis is still federally illegal and can therefore put you at risk of not having access to it or in legal trouble for possession in places where medical and/or recreational use has not been approved. Due to federal mandates, nobody can possess or use cannabis at Northwestern under any circumstance.