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Alcohol and Drug Use

Alcohol and drug use carries serious health, cultural and legal risks for all travelers.

In addition to these issues, alcohol and drug use can lead to disciplinary actions for Northwestern students, who must abide by the Northwestern Code of Conduct. Furthermore, Northwestern students participating in university-sponsored experiences abroad who exhibit excessive, irresponsible intoxication and behavior that interferes with the rights of others or causes a disruption in the program, may be subject to the following consequences:

  • Dismissal from the program or experience
  • Return home at traveler’s own expense
  • Emergency contact notification

Alcohol abroad

Most travelers will likely be going to a country where they will be of legal drinking age. Although being far from home may lessen one’s inhibitions, travelers should use good judgment if consuming alcohol. 

Drinking heavily is not only a significant danger in a foreign country, it is also seen as extremely culturally inappropriate in many places. Travelers should be aware of the customs in their host country. Drinking to get drunk is rarely acceptable, and binge drinking is seen as disrespectful and problematic in many cultures. Travelers should consider these issues when choosing how to represent themselves as a Northwestern and U.S. traveler abroad.  For travelers who have been in treatment for alcohol addiction, the United Kingdom (UK) chapter of Alcoholic Anonymous maintains a list of locations where meetings are held worldwide, and in English.

Drugs abroad

DO NOT do drugs abroad – the penalties are much too dangerous! Despite what travelers may have heard about looser drug laws outside of the U.S., drugs are illegal in most countries and drug laws are often stricter. For example, in some countries:

  • possession of a relatively small amount of illegal drugs can be grounds for mandatory sentences or even the death penalty
  • it can be illegal even to enter the country with drugs in one’s system
  • purchasing prescription medications in quantities larger than considered necessary for personal use could result in arrest on suspicion of drug trafficking

Once travelers have ventured beyond U.S. borders, they are no longer protected by U.S. laws or constitutional rights. There is very little anyone can do to help travelers if they are caught with drugs, and it is each traveler’s responsibility to know the drug laws in their destination county before prior to travel. Explaining to a foreign government, “I didn’t know it was illegal,” will not exempt a traveler from legal action. 

For your safety, do not accept packages from anyone. This is often a scam to trick travelers into smuggling drugs or contraband. If you carry a package that contains illegal drugs or substances, the fact that you did not know you were carrying it will not reduce the charges. Possession of contraband or paraphernalia associated with illegal drug use can also cause legal action.