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College drinking prevention

College drinking is normalized in America

Facts on college binge drinking indicate that college students are among an American demographic of normalized drinkers. In fact, most American college students consume alcohol occasionally. Although this is not necessarily consequential, the tendency for many college students to binge drink can lead to both short and long term harm.  And although college binge drinking statistics indicate overall binge drinking averages less now than in previous decades, college drinking causes individual and social harm. So what are some options in preventing harmful college drinking?

Here, we present some ideas about how to prevent college binge drinking from the book, College Drinking and Drug Use. This book can be used as a desk reference for those who work in public or mental health in university settings. Six (6) chapters specifically address substance abuse prevention and techniques, as well as policy strategies to address college drinking. We highly recommend College Drinking and Drug Use for anyone interested in college addiction issues or for ANY university decision maker looking to change a campus drinking culture. Following, are the Top 5 college drinking prevention facts we gleaned from our reading.

Top 5 college drinking prevention facts

1. Particular individual intervention strategies can reduce alcohol consumption, particularly among heavier-drinking college students or for students whose drinking has lead to one or more negative consequences.

2. The most commonly used alcohol prevention and treatment programs that focus on changing individual drinking behavior include:

  • Education and awareness programs
  • Cognitive behavioral skills programs
  • Motivational or feedback programs
  • Intensive alcohol dependence treatment and medication

3. Successful individual focused alcohol interventions are possible, and have been modeled, but implementation of successful drinking prevention programs can be difficult to implement due to cost, access, or tracking.

4. In addition to addressing personal drinking issues with students, university administrators also need to change campus community norms to impact risky drinking behaviors. This type of community approach is called the public health perspective and includes

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  • college administrators
  • college students
  • community leaders
  • city councils
  • campus health professionals
  • deans of students
  • parents

5. College administrators that make alcohol issues publicly known, control alcohol availability in commercial and private settings as well as enforce alcohol controls can be successful at preventing alcohol harms.

College drinking prevention questions

Do you still have questions about college drinking prevention programs or interventions? Or perhaps you’d like to share your opinion about preventing college drinking with us. Please leave your questions or comments below. We try to respond to all remarks with a personal and prompt reply.

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2 Responses to “College drinking prevention
3:24 am March 26th, 2012

It seems as though this population would be difficult to target given that in a college setting, alcohol consumption can be a big part of the culture. Professionally, I am interested in working with substance abuse and would one day like the opportunity of working in a college counseling setting. I would imagine that while working with this population there may be a fine line between “normal” young adult behavior and problematic substance abuse that impacts several aspects of life. Nevertheless, it is good to read that interventions can be put in place in order to prevent binge drinking. Just prior to turning 21, the university I attended sent me a letter about an organization that had been founded in honor of a man who had died from alcohol poisoning on his 21st birthday. It was eye opening to me because in the midst of the excitement of being “legal” it could have taken a turn for the worst, as it did for this man. Since then, I have wondered if others on my campus were impacted in any way about the letter they received. On that note, it seems very important to raise awareness and educate students about how drinking can be harmful. Although it would be a good thing to raise awareness prior to turning 21, it seems like these interventions may be good to have at the beginning of the year, targeting college freshman. In this way, I could see the value in doing campus outreach program centered on prevention.
In a counselor role, I can also see the value of continuing to assess for substance abuse with clients. However, I am wondering about the cognitive behavioral programs versus motivational or feedback programs – do college campuses typically employ both of these? What do they consist of specifically? Also, I am assuming that counselors or other professionals serve as a referral source to the intensive alcohol dependence treatment program as I am picturing a rehabilitation center but could this be clarified?

8:40 am March 27th, 2012

Hi Elyse. First, I think that you should really pick up the book, “College Drinking and Drug Use”. The book itself outlines the problems and interventions that can be used, and not just for alcohol but for marijuana and other drugs. You can also get a better idea of the context of college drinking – how and why it occurs.

Secondly, you might also be interested in another book called, “Harm Reduction: Pragmatic Strategies for Managing High Risk Behaviors”, which details alcohol reduction (rather than abstinence) programs used on campus, in medical clinics and in the workplace. You can read a brief review of some successful alcohol interventions that can be used in university settings here:

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