Website provides tools, resources and data for University community on alcohol

EVANSTON – As temperatures rise and the end of the school year approaches, the opportunities for students to celebrate their achievements — or simply blow off steam — increases. For some, that also means an increase in access to alcohol.

To help community members better navigate the sometimes-difficult landscape, Northwestern University has updated its Alcohol & Other Drug Resources website to provide new tools, statistics and information, designed to allow students, staff and faculty to make the best possible decisions.

“We know students drink, and we know they make choices around drinking. We want them to be knowledgeable,” said Todd C. Adams, associate vice president and dean of students. “We want them to be safe and take protective measures.” 

The website brings together resources and processes from across the University, and highlights Northwestern policies, such as Amnesty through Responsible Action, which encourages students to call 911 to assist others in alcohol or drug emergencies by ensuring the caller will not face disciplinary action for their own infractions.

“As a University community, our number one priority is students’ health and wellbeing,” Adams said.

The website also includes tools to help students better understand their limits when drinking, links to support services and other educational tools. It provides information about warning signs of high-risk drinking behavior, how to locate programs on alcohol education and prevention, such as “Drinking Culture Close Up” and access to individual services such as BASICS, an educational intervention for students offered by Health Promotion and Wellness.

Adams said about 20 percent of all Northwestern undergraduates, and roughly one-third of first-year students, choose not to drink. For those who do drink, the goal is for students to understand the potential risks, and to encourage moderation.

The website includes multiple datasets about Northwestern students’ drinking behaviors, which Adams said highlights some positives — and some challenges.

The statistics show almost nine in 10 students (88 percent) avoid drinking and driving, and 80 percent said they will prevent a friend from driving if he or she has been drinking. 

On a typical occasion, more than two-thirds of students who drink report consuming alcohol within the lower-risk guidelines: four or fewer drinks for males, three or fewer drinks for females.

Other numbers are more concerning, Adams said. Almost 24 percent of female undergraduate students said that when they drink, they typically consume four or five drinks in a day, putting them at higher risk. Similarly, 23.5 percent of male undergrads consume between five and seven drinks when they are drinking alcohol. 

“We want to provide insight into the drinking culture and student behaviors at Northwestern, and we think the data help,” Adams said. “We want students to be healthy and well, and understand the risks, as well as the resources available to them. We know that our community — our students, parents and employees — are rabid consumers of data. We think that putting this information out for review can help spark discussions and influence decisions.”

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