Changing College Drinking Habits

Alcohol related accidents and fights are common after risky drinking behavior in college

(RxWiki News) College kids can hurt others or themselves when they engage in risky drinking behavior. Community interventions can help in the long run. A recent study designed a plan to combat high-risk drinking behavior on college campuses.

Results were small at first, but show promise in the long run to reduce injury and other consequences.

"You don’t have to binge drink to have a good time!"

Mark Wolfson, PhD, from the department of social sciences and health policy at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC, was the lead investigator in the Study to Prevent Alcohol Related Consequences (SPARC).

In North Carolina, 10 universities were selected to participate in the study. A campus or community organizer was assigned to five, and the other five were used as controls.

The goal of each organizer was to form a coalition to create a plan to use the student’s environment, campus and community, to prevent risky drinking behavior.

The organizer brought together faculty and staff, students and community members to develop an intricate plan of attack. Social misconceptions about drinking were addressed, along with alcohol availability, pricing and marketing.

Each intervention took three years to set into action.

Researchers surveyed the students to assess their drinking behaviors.

High-risk drinking behavior was gauged by how many days, in the last 30, a student drank alcohol and binge drank, how many drinks they had and how many times per week they got drunk.

Alcohol-related consequences were gauged by car accidents, getting arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), needing medical care for injury, sexual assault and physical violence.

The study found that universities that had participated in SPARC had a 50 percent drop in alcohol-related injuries.

Dr. Wolfson said, “We realized that high-risk drinking is not just a campus problem, and it’s not just a community problem. You have to look at the entire ecosystem.”

SPARC universities saw a decrease of students reporting severe consequences from drinking from 18 to 16 percent.

Dr. Wolfson estimated that after a few years, a SPARC campus with 11,000 students would have 228 fewer severe consequences of drinking per month and 107 fewer injuries per year.

The number of students who drank alcohol did not change due to SPARC. High-risk drinking behavior in students changed due to SPARC.

Dr. Wolfson said, “[S]mall changes at the population level can translate into significant improvements in the health of a population.”

This study was published in July in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Funding was supported by the National Institutes of Health, no conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 30, 2012