College students mandated to take alcohol interventions: what works

  • Promoting "harm reduction" rather than abstinence, and providing an opportunity to discuss alcohol-related information in a non-judgmental format, can help reduce alcohol use.
  • High-risk groups appear to benefit greatly from motivational intervention and "booster sessions."
  • Targeting the social network of mandated students may help change their drinking perceptions and/or behaviors.
  • Peer-directed sessions show promise for both universal and targeted interventions.

College students who are "mandated" to receive alcohol interventions tend to comprise a disproportionate number of heavy drinkers and alcohol abusers, yet few studies have examined these students or the effectiveness of the sanctions they receive. Four presentations given during a symposium at the June 2003 Research Society on Alcoholism meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida reviewed what is known about these high-risk students as well as the effectiveness of intervention approaches used with them.

"A few studies have shown that referred students are more severe in their drinking habits than others," said Nancy P. Barnett, assistant professor of research at Brown University and corresponding author for the study. "For example, one study found rates of binge drinking at 69 percent for males and 55 percent for females versus 45 percent for the nonreferred undergraduate population at a university. The referred students also had significantly higher scores on an alcohol-problem scale. These findings are not surprising and are almost self-evident that people who get into trouble with alcohol are likely to drink more than those who don't but it's important to have data to support such claims."

Highlights of the proceedings, which are published in the June issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, are presented below.

- Brief motivational interventio


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