Academic journal article Alcohol Research

Individual-Focused Approaches to the Prevention of College Student Drinking

Academic journal article Alcohol Research

Individual-Focused Approaches to the Prevention of College Student Drinking

Article excerpt

Alcohol consumption is prevalent among college students and can become problematic for some. Numerous randomized controlled trials have evaluated the efficacy of individual preventive interventions in reducing alcohol use and alcohol-related problems in college student populations. Consistent with earlier reviews, the balance of the evidence from studies conducted during the past 3 years strongly supports the efficacy of brief motivational interventions combined with personalized feedback interventions (PFIs) and personalized normative feedback (PNF), as well as of stand-alone PFI/PNF interventions. Recent analyses also continue to support the efficacy of alcohol expectancy challenge interventions, although the findings are less consistent. In addition, recent analyses offer mixed support for feedback-based interventions focused solely on blood alcohol concentration and for multicomponent, alcohol education-focused interventions that include elements of PFI/PNF. No evidence of efficacy was found for programs that only included alcohol education. KEY WORDS: Alcohol consumption; problematic alcohol use; college students; prevention; college and universitybased prevention; preventive intervention; individuallevel prevention; brief motivational intervention; personalized feedback intervention; personalized normative feedback; blood alcohol concentration; prevention through education

As detailed by Johnston and colleagues (2009), the majority of young adults, in particular college students, consume alcohol. Moreover, a substantial proportion of those who consume alcohol misuse it, engaging in heavy episodic drinking,1 which directly and indirectly contributes to a host of harmful consequences (O'Malley and Johnston 2002; Perkins 2002). The rates of heavy drinking peak at ages 21 or 22 (Johnston et al. 2009), suggesting that most college students mature out of heavy drinking. Nevertheless, the harm they experience as a result of heavy drinking, such as poor academic and work performance or serious physical injury, may irrevocably alter students' natural developmental trajectories. In an effort to prevent or mitigate such longterm harm, myriad prevention programs have been developed to reduce college student drinking by targeting individual factors associated with alcohol use and misuse, including alcohol expectancies, drinking motives, perceived norms, and natural ambivalence regarding behavior (Baer 2002; Presley et al. 2002). A wealth of research has been devoted to evaluating the efficacy of these preventive interventions. The purpose of this article is to provide a comprehensive summary of the current state of the science with regard to individualfocused preventive interventions whose efficacy in reducing alcohol use and alcoholrelated problems has been evaluated in the college student population using randomized controlled trials. Conclusions from earlier reviews in this area are described briefly, with greater focus given to summarizing evidence accumulated in the past 3 years (2007-2010).

IndividualFocused Preventive Interventions: Specific Components and Evidence of Efficacy

Previous Reviews

Larimer and Cronce (2002, 2007) conducted qualitative reviews of research published between 1984 and early 2007 that evaluated the efficacy of individual preventive interventions aimed at college students. Both reviews noted a dearth of support for educational or awareness models, including informationbased and valuesclarification approaches, whereas there was evidence of efficacy for skillsbased interventions, including selfmonitoring/ assessment, alcohol expectancy challenge (AEC), and multicomponent skills training. Moreover, both reviews documented strong empirical support for brief motivational interventions (BMIs) delivered via mail, online, or in person. As the name implies, inperson BMIs are brief (i.e., typically delivered over one or two sessions) and focus on enhancing motivation and commitment to change problematic behavior. …

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