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Binge Drinking Interventions among College Students

By Sharma, Manoj; Kanekar, Amar | Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education, August 2008 | Go to article overview

Binge Drinking Interventions among College Students


Sharma, Manoj, Kanekar, Amar, Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education


Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 gram percent and above. For the typical adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming 5 or more drinks (male), or 4 or more drinks (female) in about 2 hours. (A drink refers to half an ounce of alcohol e.g. one 12 oz beer, one 5 oz glass of wine, or 1.5 oz shot of distilled spirits) (National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2004). This pattern of drinking alcohol is common among college students across university campuses in the United States.

Surveys done in 1993, 1997 and 1999 for college alcohol consumption trends asked about occurrence of binge drinking in the two weeks prior to completion of the questionnaire (Wechsler, Lee, Kuo, & Lee, 2000). The outcome of these surveys showed that the proportion of binge drinkers remained similar in all subgroups and in all type of colleges. The characteristic demographic variables that defined binge drinkers were white males or white females belonging to a fraternity or a sorority and who had a history of binge drinking in high school. Similar correlates of binge drinking were seen in another study conducted among a nationally representative sample of students across 140 campuses (Wechsler, Dowdall, Davenport, & Castillo, 1995). Here the importance of engaging in binge drinking was inextricably linked to the typical aspects of American college life such as parties, athletics and interactions with friends. It is clear from these studies that binge drinking continues to be a problem in present times and prevention effort in the form of effective interventions is the need of the hour.

Several interventions have been developed to prevent binge drinking. In one, a nested approach to intervention which targeted high-risk group of individuals, group intervention consisted mainly of motivational interviewing aimed at promoting responsible drinking, decreasing high-risk drinking and reducing alcohol related negative events on campus (Labrie, Pederson, Lamb, & Bove, 2006). Another important aspect of this intervention involved the campus community in this risk reduction endeavor and thus encouraging campus dialogue among student, faculty and staff. The preliminary analysis yielded positive results of decrease in problematic drinking and alcohol related violations.

In another study, a randomized control trial which studied the effects of a primary prevention social norm intervention on binge drinking, no differences were found between intervention and control group in alcohol use and alcohol-use risk factors (Werch, et al., 2000). This alone stands as a surprising outcome since all the earlier studies successfully modified perceptions regarding binge drinking or decreased alcohol use. Among various intervention strategies tried among binge drinkers, motivational interviewing as a counseling skill has been found to be quite successful and stage-matched (Gintner, & Choate, 2003). Similar efficacious results were seen in another study which used a single session motivational interviewing intervention (Borsari & Carey, 2000). Results showed a significant reduction in past month binge drinking and number of drinks consumed per week. Prevention of binge drinking in the form of primary prevention is done across various campuses either by changing the attitudes of the targeted students or as a general policy where students yield to the specific policy. These settings of targeted interventions are college campuses. A different setting such as a hospital setting can also be effectively used for alcohol reduction intervention. College-students who sought medical treatment at an emergency department for various reasons were provided with screening for alcohol intake associated with brief counseling. The participants found the intervention to be very helpful (Helmkamp, et al., 2003).

Changing the attitudes of college students from binge drinkers by providing messages about responsible drinking was attempted by persuasive messages via the world wide web (Pilling & Brannon, 2007).

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