On Your Mark, Get Set, Don’t Chug!

Alcohol abuse in the college crowd is often due to social expectations of binge drinking

(RxWiki News) A college kid binge drinks because the other college kids around them binge drink, it’s the norm, but what if it wasn’t the norm? If responsible drinking were the norm, would binge drinking drop?

A new study takes a look at what is behind the college behavior of binge drinking in order to see if what can be done to change it.

Could convincing college students that there are more positives to avoiding binge drinking change their behavior?

"Be responsible, binge drinking is dangerous!"

College kids binge drinking is a serious problem and it’s not getting any better yet. What is going to finally make a difference? Researchers at Miriam Hospital are putting their best foot forward to come up with an approach that will make a real difference.

Lori A.J. Scott-Sheldon Ph.D., Assistant Professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and lead author of the study, states “We know drinking habits can be influenced by what people expect will happen when they consume alcohol, so if you believe alcohol gives you ‘liquid courage’ or that drinking helps you ‘fit in’ or be more social, you’re likely to drink more.”

Scott-Sheldon’s team took 1,415 students from different colleges around the U.S. and tried 19 different ‘alcohol expectancy challenges’.

The idea is to debunk the notion that college students feel like they have to drink in order to have a good time, be more social, have more courage or be accepted by others.

The ‘alcohol expectancy challenges’ were given to groups of students along with beverages, the students didn’t know if they were given drinks with alcohol in them or not.

At the end of the ‘alcohol expectancy challenges’, which consisted of game playing and social interaction in a bar like setting, the students were then asked if they thought they’re been drinking alcohol or not. Results showed that most of the students weren’t sure whether they’d been drinking alcohol or not.

The good news is that when they followed up with students, binge drinking had decreased for up to a month. This method of re-wiring how students think about alcohol contributing positively to their ‘college experience’ is inexpensive and accessible.

Researchers understand that a one-time approach isn’t going to last throughout college, but re-introducing these ideas before major party weeks or sports events could make a difference.

This study was published online in the Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, April 2012. The funding for this study was provided by the National Institutes of Health, no conflicts of interest were found.

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Review Date: 
April 18, 2012