Study Looks at New Way to Curb Binge Drinking among College Students, Teens

April 23, 2012

Study Looks at New Way to Curb Binge Drinking among College Students, Teens

Binge drinking is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is drinking alcoholic beverages in so much excess that one’s blood alcohol content (BAC) raises above 0.08. Binge drinkers are not alcohol dependent, however, and generally only drink during social events such as parties or in bars. The CDC Fact Sheet on binge drinking reveals that the problem has grown significantly in the United States over the past few years. Some of the most startling statistics include:
  • 90% of the alcohol consumed by those under the age of 21 is from binge drinking.
  • Binge drinkers are fourteen times more likely to engage in alcohol-impaired driving than non-binge drinkers.
  • Males are more likely to binge drink than females.
  • 51% of 18 to 20 year old drinkers frequently report binge drinking. This is the highest proportion among all age groups.
Clearly, teens are at a high risk for binge drinking for several reasons. First, the social scene of many high school and college parties revolves around alcohol and/or drug consumption which makes it easy for immature young people to give in to temptation. Second, since teens and earl college students are under the legal drinking age, making alcohol inaccessible outside of these social scenes, they are far more likely to overindulge as a result of inexperience. For these reasons and others, has led the United States’ Surgeon General to declare alcohol consumption by college students and teens to be a national public health priority. This has led several researchers, educators, and parents to seek new ways to combat the problems of binge drinking among youth. Miriam Hospital’s Study on ‘Alcohol Expectations’ In this light, researchers from The Miriam Hospital in Providence, RI undertook a new study on the effects that young people’s “alcohol expectancy” has on their alcohol consumption. The preliminary report from this study, released last week, shows a positive correlation between a different approach to alcohol education and the ultimate choices made by teens and young adults. A typical alcohol expectancy challenge, as this method is called, would follow this sort of scenario: researchers provide alcohol to a group in a bar-like setting; some of the drinks contain alcohol, but others are non-alcoholic. Participants do not know beverage they have. Students will then engage in different activities that are designed to promote social interaction, like party games, and after a while, they will be asked to evaluate which other participants were drinking alcoholic versus non-alcoholic beverages. Alcohol expectancy intervention seeks to reprogram a person’s image of the positive effects of alcohol consumption – feeling less inhibited and more outgoing in social scenarios – and prove that it is not the alcohol that causes such changes, but the person. The inability of majority of study participants to discern which partiers were drinking and which were not seems to confirm this hypothesis. The lead researcher from this study, Lori A.J. Scott-Sheldon, Ph.D., from The Miriam Hospital’s Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine, believes that this new method of teaching about alcohol use can be a valuable tool in the cache of educators dealing with the effects of binge drinking in the classroom and beyond. This is supported by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism which identifies alcohol expectancy challenges as one of only three alcohol-prevention treatments effective for college students. For this report Scott-Sheldon and her tem conducted a meta-analysis of nineteen separate alcohol expectancy challenges taking place among 1,400+ college students at institutions across the country. The results were positive. Participants reported lower positive alcohol expectancies as well as reducing both their use of alcohol overall and the frequency of heavy drinking for up to one month post-intervention. Implications for the Future There are clear challenges with this study. Chief among these challenges is the fact that participation in the type of alcohol expectancy intervention described in the Miriam Hospital report involves serving alcohol to underage persons. However, as part of a complete treatment plan for at-risk students this may be acceptable. On a larger scale, using similar training methods, without the alcohol itself, may be in order. Another drawback to this type of retraining is that it seems to last only a short period of time – up to one month post-intervention. This means that, to be effective, schools would need to run these interventions frequently, which poses a cost and time issue. However, if the general concepts of these interventions can be extrapolated into a more comprehensive curriculum, one that is reinforced by parents who display to their children the benefits of social interaction without alcohol as well as the need for responsible (non-binge) consumption thereof, the conclusions of this study could be very helpful indeed. What are your thoughts and experiences with teen alcohol consumption and binge drinking? Can alcohol expectancy interventions work on an adapted scale in the high school or middle school classroom?



Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.