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...on Substance Abuse and the College Campus

Summer 2002

Underage college students' drinking behavior, access to alcohol, and the influence of deterrence policies: Findings from the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study.

Wechsler H; Lee JE; Nelson TF; Kuo M. Journal of American College Health 50(5): 223-236, 2002. (30 refs.)
Underage drinking is a major problem at American colleges, but little is known about the extent of alcohol use in different student groups, in different colleges, and in states with different control policies. We used data from the 2001 and 3 previous Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Studies that compared responses of underage students with those of their 21-23-year-old peers. Underage students drank alcohol less frequently but were more likely to drink to excess when they drank. College educational efforts and deterrent policies were limited in their outreach, and half of underage students obtained alcohol very easily. Under-age students in states with extensive laws restricting underage and high-volume drinking were less likely to drink and to binge drink. A majority of underage students supported increasing efforts to control underage drinking. The results suggest that additional policy efforts to control underage drinking may be effective and feasible. 

Copyright 2002, Helen Dwight Reid Educational Foundation.

Increasing MDMA use among college students: Results of a national survey.

Strote J; Lee JE; Wechsler H. Journal of Adolescent Health 30(1): 64-72, 2002. (39 refs.)
Purpose: To examine the prevalence and changing patterns of ecstasy use among college students, and to determine characteristics, associated behaviors, and interests of ecstasy users. Methods: The study analyzes data regarding ecstasy use and related behaviors from the 1997 and 1999 Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study. This is a survey of a nationally representative sample of over 14,000 college students at 119 U.S. four-year colleges. Changes in self-reported annual ecstasy use were examined, and lifestyle and high-risk behaviors associated with Ecstasy use were identified. Data were analyzed using 2 x 2 Chi-square tests and multiple logistic regression fitted by the generalized estimating equations (GEE). Results: The prevalence of past year ecstasy use rose from 2.8% to 4.7% between 1997 and 1999, an increase of 69%. This increase was observed across nearly all subgroups of student and college type. A smaller sample of ten colleges revealed that the increase continued in 2000. Ecstasy users were more likely to use marijuana, engage in binge drinking, smoke cigarettes, have multiple sexual partners, consider arts and parties as important, religion as less important, spend more times socializing with friends, and spend less times studying. Unlike other illicit drug users, ecstasy users were not academic underachievers and their satisfaction with education was not different from that of non-ecstasy users. Conclusion: Ecstasy use is a high-risk behavior among college students which has increased rapidly in the past decade.

Copyright 2002, Society for Adolescent Medicine.

Self-determination, perception of peer pressure, and drinking among college students.

Knee CR; Neighbors C. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 32(3): 522-543, 2002. (33 refs.)
Based on self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985b), the present research tested a model that incorporated motivational orientation, extrinsic reasons for drinking, and perceptions of peer pressure as predictors of drinking among college students. In a sample of undergraduates, support was found for a path model in which global motivation predicted extrinsic reasons for drinking, which predicted perceptions of peer pressure, which in turn predicted alcohol consumption. In addition, the relation between peer pressure and drinking was stronger for those who were oriented toward feeling controlled. Support was found for a similar model in a sample of fraternity students. Results support previous research on self- determination and health.

Copyright 2002, VH Winston & Sons, Inc.

Gender differences in collegiate risk factors for heavy episodic drinking.

McCabe SE. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 63(1): 49-56, 2002. (26 refs.)
Objective: The present research examines gender differences in the way risk factors for heavy episodic drinking operate among undergraduate students. Method: A web-based survey was administered to students attending a large, midwestern research university in the spring of 1999. The sample consisted of 2,041 undergraduate students with a mean age of 21.1 years; 51% were female; 72% were white, 12% Asian, 5% African American, 4% Hispanic and 7% of other races. Heavy episodic drinking was defined as five or more drinks in a row for men and four or more for women in the last 2 weeks. Two multiple risk factor approaches, continuous and categorical, were used, to examine gender differences, with the latter focusing on three drinking patterns (nonheavy episodic drinking, heavy episodic drinking, and frequent heavy episodic drinking). Results: The data indicated gender differences and similarities among risk factors for heavy episodic drinking within four major domains of risk factors (background, motivational, social context and behavioral). There were significant differences in the way class year and living arrangements operated as risk factors between undergraduate men and women. Gender similarities existed for precollege drinking, drinking motivations and several behavioral measures. The categorical analysis revealed several risk factors unique to the most harmful drinking pattern. Conclusions: This study lends support for gender differences between individual risk factors for heavy episodic drinking among undergraduate students. These differences have important implications for planning research and interventions to reduce collegiate heavy episodic drinking.

Copyright  2002, Alcohol Research Documentation, Inc. Used with permission.

Drinking perceptions and management strategies of college students with diabetes.

Miller-Hagan RS; Janas BG. Diabetes Educator 28(2): 233-244, 2002. (21 refs.)
The purpose of this research was to explore how college students with diabetes perceive and manage alcohol consumption. Methods: Fifteen college students with diabetes attending a large northeastern university participated in a single semistructured interview that focused on the impact of starting college on diabetes management and situational obstacles to diet-related self-care. Interviews were audio-taped, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed using the constant comparative method of analysis. Results: Students perceived alcohol as a pervasive part of the university environment and felt strong peer pressure to drink in alcohol-related social situations. Students described 3 distinct drinking practices and identified factors that shaped decisions about drinking. Most students developed personal strategies to manage drinking, usually without guidance. Conclusions: Some of the students' strategies appeared reasonable for avoiding adverse outcomes of drinking; however, other strategies may have increased their risk of hypoglycemia or poor glucose control. More research is needed to understand how students' management strategies influence diabetes control and explore how education and counseling from healthcare providers can improve students' management of drinking.

Copyright 2002, American Association of Diabetes Educators.

Binge drinking initiation and problems among incoming residential college students.

Carlson JM; Werch CE; Pappas DM; Chally PS. American Journal of Health Behavior 25(3): 324, 2001. (0 refs.)
The prevalence of and problems associated with binge drinking initiation were studied in 634 residential first-year college students The students completed a standardized questionnaire during the 1998 fall semester The following results of the study were seen: (1) stages of binge drinking initiation revealing 4% of students maintaining binge drinking for longer than 6 months, 24% preparing/initiating binge drinking, 3% thinking of drinking heavily in the near future, and 69% not thinking of drinking heavily, (2) findings that 49% of incoming freshmen residential students had occasionally gotten drunk, (3) findings that 47% had not received any alcohol or drug education during the past year, (4) problems associated with binge drinking with 33% experiencing a hangover within the past three months 22% doing something they regretted and 13% having unplanned sex after drinking, and (5) problems associated with others' binge drinking including 39% of students taking care of friends who drank too much 27% experiencing sleep/study interruptions and 13% reporting experiencing unwanted sexual advances It is concluded that binge drinking initiation and the problems associated with heavy alcohol use are fairly common even among students on campus for only a short period.

Copyright © 2001, CB Slack, Inc.

Finding common ground for effective campus-based prevention.

DeJong W. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors 15(4): 292-296, 2001. (30 refs.)
This commentary reviews the controversy over use of the term binge drinking to describe college student alcohol consumption, argues for abandoning the term, and explains how doing so will help unify and reinvigorate campus-based prevention work. Binge drinking has been defined for men as 5 or more drinks in a row at least once in the previous 2 weeks and as 4 or more drinks for women. There is no scientific basis for focusing on this measure to the exclusion of other consumption measures; neither is there justification for labeling such consumption binge drinking, which reinforces an exaggerated view of student drinking. To build support for environmental management strategies to reduce alcohol-related problems, campus officials should avoid terminology that demonizes students and instead embrace the responsible majority of college students as an essential part of the solution.

Copyright 2001, American Psychological Association