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Researchers Find that Early Intervention Can Curb College Drinking


In an interest to curb drinking among college students, Penn State researchers have created a new scientific approach, involving early intervention, that they believe will help students avoid becoming heavy drinkers in the future.

“Research shows there is spike in alcohol-related consequences that occur in the first few weeks of the semester, especially with college freshmen,” said Michael Cleveland, research associate at the Prevention Research Center. “If you can buffer that and get beyond that point and safely navigate through that passage, you reduce the risk of later problems occurring”.

Researchers experimented with two types of intervention methods on incoming freshmen, a parent-based intervention and a peer-based intervention. Results confirmed that those students who were non-drinkers before starting college, and who received the parent based intervention, were unlikely to become heavy drinkers, according to a survey the students took during the fall semester of their freshmen year.

Students that drank heavily before college were more inclined to stop if they also received the parent or peer intervention before starting school. However, if they received both types of interventions simultaneously there was no significant effect.

In a scientific tally, researchers learned that 8 percent of the incoming freshmen were heavy drinkers the summer before staring college. After being surveyed again, it was revealed that 28 percent of the freshmen now drank heavily.

The results, published in the online journal of Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, were based on a study that consisted of 1,275 high-risk matriculating college students, and it was initially conducted in 2006 by professor of bio-behavioral health Rob Turrisi.

In this current study, Cleveland and his colleagues conducted things differently, focusing on the students core personal approach to college drinking, as opposed to measuring average drinking levels, peak blood alcohol content, or drinks per weekend.

This new approach would allow researchers to better estimate changing drinking patterns among the students as their college years progress.

“We found four sub-groups of drinkers, which is an important advance to understanding different types of drinking that were present in this college sample,” noted Cleveland.

“From Here we may be able to tailor the intervention to different types of students, identifying those students who are at different types of risk, by figuring out a way to match the intervention to the individual you can also maximize your resources for intervention,” he said.

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