Alcohol interventions that teach practical skills work best with high-risk university students

Heavy drinking among university students appears to be a universal problem. Although most universities have alcohol policies, it is unclear which interventions can effectively reduce alcohol consumption. A new Swedish study indicates that students who engage in high-risk alcohol consumption benefit the most from a skills-training program.

Results are published in the March issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"Most studies of the drinking habits of university students are conducted in the United States, but one can also find studies from Europe and Australia/New Zealand," said Henriett Sthlbrandt, a physician in the department of clinical alcohol research at Lund University in Sweden, and corresponding author for the study. The consequences are clear, she added: in the short term, a greater incidence of violence, illness, skipped classes, etc.; and in the long term, risk of permanent damage to the body and brain and alcohol dependence.

"Almost all universities have alcohol policies, and interventions greatly differ from one university to another," said Sthlbrandt. "The skills-training program used in our study is based on cognitive-skill intervention and motivational techniques. Personalized drinking feedback has also been found effective."

In the year 2000, Sthlbrandt and her colleagues began an analysis of 556 students living in 98 university halls of residence who were participating in one of two alcohol-intervention programs. "Although Swedish university halls of residency have long been rumored to be where the greatest amount of drinking occurs at Swedish universities," she said, "this has never been put to the test."

One program, a brief skills-training program (BSTP) with interactive lectures and discussions (n=178), was derived from the University of Washington's Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students. The second program, a 12-step influenc

Contact: Henriett Sthlbrandt, M.D.
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research

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