Drug-Free Campus Policy

The collective vision at Northwestern Health Sciences University is to develop an environment that fosters exemplary, innovative and ethically based educational programs in natural health care. Drug and alcohol use and abuse can interfere with a student’s ability to pursue an education and the University’s ability to carry out its mission. Alcohol and drug abuse affect the health, safety and well-being of all students and staff.

In compliance with the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act Amendments of 1989, Northwestern has implemented the following policies to prevent the illicit use of drugs and the abuse of alcohol by students and employees.

The unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensation, possession, or use of any controlled substance or illegal drug is prohibited on campus, including all University premises where the activities of the University are conducted, while on University business or as part of any of the University’s programs or activities. In addition, the University also prohibits the unauthorized possession, use or distribution of alcohol on campus, while on University business or as part of any of the University’s programs or activities. At certain sanctioned University functions, alcoholic beverages may be allowed, but will be monitored.

Storing any unauthorized controlled substances, drug paraphernalia or alcohol in a locker, desk, University owned vehicle or other place on University owned or occupied premises is prohibited. It is the responsibility of employees and students to know and comply with this policy. To facilitate this, the campus alcohol and drug policy is clearly laid out and distributed to all students and employees as follows:

  1. The University’s drug and alcohol policy is available in the Student Handbook and the Personnel Policy and Procedure Manual, which are made available to every student and employee. Information on Northwestern’s drug and alcohol policies are distributed to all new and current students, staff and faculty through various University departments. At orientation sessions for new students, staff, and faculty, information about the University’s drug and alcohol policies are provided.
  2. Each year, copies of this policy are sent to all students and employees via email. Those who violate this drug and alcohol use policy will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal. Employees and students who violate this policy may be referred for criminal prosecution. The use of controlled substances/illegal drugs or narcotics and the service of or selling of alcohol to those less than 21 years of age is against the law. Many states will not grant license privileges to graduates convicted of a federal offense.
  3. This alcohol and drug policy applies to all functions on the Northwestern Health Sciences University campus as well as all university-sponsored events off campus. This policy is subject to the jurisdiction of the University Cabinet. The University conducts a biennial review of this policy to determine the effectiveness of this policy and to ensure that disciplinary sanctions for violating student conduct are enforced consistently.

A full list of policies can be found in the Student Handbook.

Legal sanctions

There are significant criminal penalties under state and federal law for the unlawful possession or distribution of alcohol and illicit drugs.

Penalties include:

  • Consumption of alcohol by a minor – up to a $700 fine and /or 90 days in jail
  • Illegal sale of alcohol – up to $3,000 fine and/or 1 year in jail
  • Possession of a small amount of marijuana – up to a $700 fine and/or 90 days in jail
  • Sale or possession of controlled substances – up to a $1,000,000 fine and/or 30 years in jail

A host or organization accepting donations or charging for alcoholic beverages served may, in some circumstances, be guilty of selling liquor without a license and may also be liable if someone served becomes intoxicated and his or her behavior results in injury or loss to another person. Both criminal and civil liability can result.

Please refer to state and federal statutes for further sanctions related to drug and alcohol use. These statutes can be found at:

Drugs and alcohol health risks

In compliance with the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act of 1989 (Public Law 101-226) the University has adopted a program to prevent the unlawful possession, use and distribution of illicit drugs and alcohol by members of the University community. In compliance with this requirement, information below describes the various health risks associated with alcohol abuse and the use of specific types of drugs. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete statement of all the possible health consequences of substance abuse. A copy of “A Matter of Facts: Information about alcohol and other drugs” is available in the Office of Student Affairs Office and the Human Resources Department.

Alcohol use and abuse

Alcohol is the most widely used and abused drug in the United States. Alcohol acts as a central nervous system depressant. Alcohol intake causes a number of marked changes in behavior. Even low doses significantly impair the judgment and coordination required to drive a car safely, increasing the likelihood that the driver will be involved in an accident.

Low to moderate doses of alcohol also increase the incidence of a variety of aggressive acts. Moderate to high doses of alcohol cause marked impairments in higher mental functions, severely altering a person’s ability to learn and remember information. Very high doses cause respiratory depression and death.

If combined with other depressants of the central nervous system, much lower doses of alcohol can be fatal. Repeated use of alcohol can lead to dependence. In addition, research indicates that children of alcoholic parents are at a greater risk of developing alcohol dependency later in life.

Sudden cessation of alcohol intake is likely to produce withdrawal symptoms, including severe anxiety, tremors, hallucinations and convulsions. Alcohol withdrawal can be life threatening. Long-term consumption of large quantities of alcohol, particularly when combined with poor nutrition, can also lead to permanent damage to vital organs, such as the brain and liver.

Mothers who consume alcohol during pregnancy may give birth to infants with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Because every woman metabolizes alcohol differently, even the smallest amount of alcohol could harm a developing baby. Infants with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders have irreversible physical abnormalities and mental retardation. Alcohol can affect the baby during every trimester of pregnancy.

Drinking alcohol up to the 13th week of pregnancy can cause:

  • severe brain damage
  • problems with the heart, liver and kidneys
  • miscarriage
  • facial malformations

Drinking alcohol between weeks 14 and 26 can cause:

  • brain damage
  • miscarriage
  • damaged muscles, skin, teeth, glands and bones

Drinking alcohol between weeks 27 and 40 can cause:

  • brain and lung damage
  • low birth weight
  • early labor and delivery

Amphetamines/Other stimulants

Amphetamines (speed, uppers), methamphetamines and other stimulants can cause increased heart and respiratory rate, elevated blood pressure, dilated pupils and decreased appetite. In addition, users may experience sweating, headache, bad breath, blurred vision, dizziness, sleeplessness, and anxiety. Extremely high doses can cause a rapid or irregular heartbeat, tremors, loss of coordination, and even physical collapse. An amphetamine injection causes a sudden increase in blood pressure that can result in stroke, very high fever or heart failure.

In addition to the physical effects listed above, stimulant users report feeling restless, anxious and moody. People who use large amounts of amphetamines over a long period of time can develop an amphetamine psychosis that includes hallucinations, delusions and paranoia.

Barbiturates/Other depressants

Barbiturates (downers), methaqualone (quaaludes), tranquilizers (valium and rohypnol) and other depressants have many of the same effects as alcohol. Small or prescribed doses can produce calmness and relaxed muscles, but larger doses can cause slurred speech, staggering and altered perception. Very large doses can cause respiratory depression, coma and death. The combination of depressants and alcohol can multiply the effects of the drugs, thereby multiplying the risks. Use can also cause liver damage, convulsions, and coma.

Cannabis / Marijuana

The physical effects of marijuana include a substantial increase in heart rate, bloodshot eyes, a dry mouth and throat, and increased appetite. It may impair short-term memory and comprehension, alter sense of time and reduce ability to perform tasks requiring concentration and coordination, such as driving a car. Research also shows that motivation and cognition may be altered, making the acquisition of new information difficult. When marijuana contains 2 percent THC, it can cause severe psychological damage, including paranoia and psychosis. Since the early 1980’s, most marijuana has contained from 4 to 6 percent THC – two or three times the amount capable of causing serious damage.

Because users often inhale the unfiltered smoke deeply and then hold it in their lungs as long as possible, marijuana is damaging to the lungs and pulmonary system. Marijuana smoke contains more cancer causing agents than tobacco smoke. Long-term users of marijuana may develop psychological dependence and require more of the drug to get the same effect.

Cocaine / Crack

Cocaine stimulates the central nervous system. Its immediate effects include dilated pupils and elevated blood pressure, increased heart and respiratory rate, and elevated body temperature. Injecting cocaine with contaminated equipment can cause AIDS, hepatitis and other diseases. Crack or freebase rock is a purified form of cocaine that is smoked. Smoking crack provides intensified cocaine effects because higher doses of the drug reach the brain very quickly. Crack is far more addictive than heroin or barbiturates. Continued use can produce violent behavior and psychotic states similar to schizophrenia.

Health risks include malnutrition, respiratory problems, addiction, stroke, liver problems, seizures, heart and respiratory failure, psychosis, coma, convulsions, and sexual dysfunction. Cocaine in any form, but particularly in the purified form known as crack, can cause sudden death from cardiac arrest or respiratory failure.

Hallucinogens phencyclidine (PCP, angel dust), mescaline, peyote, LSD, and mushrooms interfere with the part of the brain that controls the intellect and keeps instincts in check. Hallucinogens are psychedelic, mind-altering drugs that affect a person’s perceptions, feelings, thinking, and self-awareness. Use causes increased body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, tremors, confusion, paranoia, and sometimes violence.

Because PCP blocks pain receptors, violent PCP episodes may result in self-inflicted injuries. Large doses may produce convulsions and coma, as well as heart and lung failure. Psychological reactions may include panic, confusion, suspicion, anxiety and loss of control. Delayed effects or flashbacks can occur even after use has ceased.


The immediate negative effects of inhalants (laughing gas, whippets) include nausea, sneezing, coughing, nosebleeds, fatigue, and lack of coordination and loss of appetite. Solvents and aerosol sprays also decrease heart and respiratory rates and impair judgment. Amyl and butyl nitrite cause rapid pulse, headaches and involuntary passing of urine and feces. Long-term use may result in hepatitis or brain damage. Deeply inhaling the vapors or using large amounts over a short period of time may result in disorientation, violent behavior, unconsciousness, or death. High concentrations of inhalants can cause suffocation by displacing the oxygen in the lungs or by depressing the central nervous system to the point that breathing stops.

MDMA / Ecstasy

MDMA is a stimulant with psychodelic properties. Short-term effects include feelings of mental stimulation, emotional warmth, enhanced sensory perception, and increased physical energy. Adverse health effects can include nausea, chills, sweating, teeth clenching, muscle cramping, and blurred vision. Chronic use of MDMA may lead to changes in brain function.


Narcotics such as opium, demerol, heroin, codeine and morphine initially produce a feeling of euphoria that often is followed by drowsiness, nausea and vomiting. Users also may experience constricted pupils, watery eyes and itching. An overdose may produce slow and shallow breathing, clammy skin, convulsions, coma and possible death. Narcotics are extremely addictive.

Steroids may contribute to increases in body weight and muscular strength. Steroids are injected directly into the muscle or taken orally. Steroids are illegal to possess without a prescription from a licensed physician. They are prescribed for specific medical conditions. Possible signs of use/abuse: sudden increase in muscle and weight; increase in aggression and combativeness; violence; hallucinations; depression; jaundice; purple or red spots on body, inside mouth, or nose; swelling of feet or lower legs; tremors; and bad breath. Health risks include, but are not limited to high blood pressure; liver and kidney damage; heart disease; increased risk of injury to ligaments and tendons; bowel and urinary problems; gallstones and kidney stones; and liver cancer.

Additional information about the health risks of drug use and abuse can be accessed through the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Where to go for help/community resources

Students are encouraged to contact Northwestern Health Sciences University’s counselor for information regarding treatment services and self-help programs related to substance use and abuse. Call the Office of Student Affairs at 952-888-4777 ext. 405 to schedule an appointment.

Employees are encouraged to contact the Employee Assistance Program (Lifebalance) at 1-800-854-1446.

Chemical dependency / Addiction treatment centers (inpatient and outpatient) – Twin Cities area

  • Fairview Chemical Dependency Services / 612-273-3000
  • Twin Town Treatment Center (St. Paul/Eagan) / 651-645-3661
  • Hazelden Center for Youth and Families / 651-213-4000
  • Pride Institute(for GLBT communities) / 952-934-7554
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator/ Locate treatment programs near you.

Chemical dependency / Addiction resources

Additional resources

United Way’s First Call for Help
Dial 2-1-1 or 651-224-1133