Reducing Hazardous Drinking on College Campuses

By Iris Smith

Over the past 20 years, alcohol and other drug use among college-age populations has been the topic of numerous research studies. A review of these studies indicate that patterns of alcohol and other drug use has changed over time. This is particularly true of binge drinking (consuming 4 or more drinks per drinking occasion or BAC of at least .08%).[1] Social/environmental factors such as living arrangements (on or off campus); perceived social norms among peers; peer influence of specific social groups (e.g., fraternities), seasonal and recreational events such as New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day, athletic events, and parties have been associated with hazardous drinking among college students. Other risk factors include family attitudes toward alcohol, early onset of alcohol use, and personality characteristics such as impulsivity and anxiety.

In addition to the social and legal consequences, binge drinking also increases the risk of blackouts, poor performance on cognitive tasks, and structural brain changes.[2] Given the public health impact of binge drinking, many colleges and universities have implemented brief alcohol interventions on campus which appear to be preferable as well as effective within this population. A meta-analysis of 52 effectiveness studies found that although brief intervention studies were successful in reducing problematic use, only the Brief Alcohol Screening Intervention for College Students (BASICS) consistently led to reductions across all alcohol outcomes, including frequency, overall consumption, and consumption during peak episodes of drinking.[3] A systematic review of current evidence on the effectiveness of mobile platforms (mHealth) such as text messaging and SMS found that the use of mobile technology is an affordable method to disseminate information to young people and have demonstrated effectiveness in reducing risky behavior among emerging adults.[4]



Campus Drug Prevention :This site contains links to federal and non-federal resources on college age drinking and drug use, including links to the most recent research publications.  The resource articles below may be of particular interest:


  • 2018 College Prescription Drug Study: a multi-institutional survey of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students administered by Ohio State University.


  • Prevention with a Purpose:  A Strategic Planning Guide for Preventing Drug Misuse Among College Students. A guide provides a roadmap for college and university-based prevention professionals to collaborate with a wide range of stakeholders, from students to administrators, to address campus-wide drug misuse issues.


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)


The SAMHSA resources below may be of interest:



Articles of Interest




[1] Kriegar H, Young CM, Anthenien AM, Neighbors C. (2018). Epidemiology of Binge Drinking Among College -Age Individuals in the United States.  Alcohol Research: Current Reviews; 39(1), pg.23-30.

[2] Ibid

[3] Hennessy EA, Tanner-Smith EE, Mavridis D, Grant SP (2019).  Comparative Effectiveness of Brief Alcohol Interventions for College Students:  Results from a Network Meta-analysis.  Prevention Science 20 (5); pg.715-740.

[4] Hutton A, Prichard, Whitehead D, Thomas S, Rubin M, Sloand E, Powell TW, Frisch K, Newman P, Goodwin V. (2020).  mHealth.Interventions to Reduce Alcohol Use in Young People:  A Systematic Review of the Literature.  Comprehensive Child Adolescent Nursing, 43 (3); pg. 171-202.


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