Brief Interventions: Big Impact On Campus Drinking

The transition to college is often a time of freedom and experimentation for students.

College parties, in combination with the absence of parental restraint, provide ample opportunities for students to drink.

Educating students on how to make informed choices about drinking is a focus on every college campus.

Teaching freshmen about binge drinking risks

But what works? Should colleges and universities be implementing a 3-credit hour course for freshmen on the risks of binge drinking? Or perhaps a campus-wide campaign with catchy sound bites about drinking is more effective.

A recent study looked at the effectiveness of brief motivational intervention (BMI) in dealing with college drinking. Terlecki, Larimer, and Copeland published their study in 2010 on the clinical outcomes of a BMI for heavy drinking college students.

The researchers sought to evaluate a BMI for reducing high-risk alcohol use and alcohol-related problems. They evaluated mandated and voluntary student drinkers to determine whether BMI-mandated students report a greater decrease in alcohol use and related problems when compared to those with no treatment.

The study also would assess whether a BMI is comparably effective for mandated and voluntary students and whether a control group showed greater changes in alcohol use and related problems when compared with the voluntary control group.

The study recruited undergraduate student research volunteers who met criteria for heavy drinking. The participants were 62% male and had completed measures of alcohol use and alcohol problems both at baseline and four weeks after the BMI.

The 84 participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups: a treatment group or an assessment-only group.

Treatment results

The results of the study show that the participants that received treatment reported consuming fewer drinks after the BMI was conducted, relative to control groups. The study also showed that mandated students reported significantly fewer problems relative to volunteers at the four-week follow-up assessment.

The findings of the study are very important for those planning education, prevention and intervention for heavily drinking college students. The research highlights that those who were placed in a BMI at a mandatory level were more successful at applying what they learned than those who received the BMI on a voluntary basis.

New direction of motivational education

In the past, there have been many reactionary strategies to deal with heavy student drinking that centered on discipline. The research reported here indicates that colleges may want to direct attention to motivational education for dealing with problem drinking on campus. BMI may be a small step towards a big change in how students make decisions about alcohol.

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