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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

College Community Drinking Intervention

Logo of the United States National Institute o...
Logo of the United States National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Interventions can play a major role in the addiction and recovery field. Honestly, interventions are not always easy, they are not always successful; however, for many people suffering from the disease of addiction it is the best hope in getting them to understand and admit that they do have a problem and to accept help in finding recovery.

Usually when we discuss interventions we are discussing a personal or private intervention: one where the alcoholic and/or addict meets with his or her family members and a professional interventionist. However, on July 24, 2012, the result of a new study was released that discusses the efficacy of comprehensive environmental intervention.

The National Institute on Alcohol abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), which is part of National Institutes of Health (NIH), funded the Study to Prevent Alcohol Related Consequences (SPARC) that found according to the NIH press release:

“This study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that strategic changes to the environment on [a college]campus and in the surrounding community can have an impact on high-risk drinking and its consequences among college students,” said Kenneth R. Warren, Ph.D., acting director of the NIH's National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).


The study was led by Mark Wolfson, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Social Sciences and Health Policy at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, NC. Here are a few details:

  • 10 universities in North Carolina participated in the three year study
  • Five campuses organized coalitions made up of campus administrators, faculty, staff, students and members of the community at large.
  • Five campuses did not organize similar coalitions; they served as the study's control group.
  • Using a community organization approach, each of the campuses that organized a coalition were asked to design and use specific strategies that addressed alcohol availability, harm reduction, social norms ( i.e., correcting mis-perceptions about the rate of high-risk drinking among peers) and alcohol price and marketing.
  • On SPARC campuses the percentage of students reporting sever consequences as a result of alcohol use decreased from 18% to 16%. The non-SPARC campuses reported no change.
  • SPARC campuses reported the injuring of another person as a result of alcohol consumption decreased from 4 percent to 2 percent. A smaller and insignificant change was noted in the non-SPARC campuses.

Alcohol abuse on college campuses is a public health crisis. We have written about college students and alcohol and drug abuse many times over the past few years. We are hopeful that this study will encourage college communities to organize and bring about an answer to this health crisis. Sometimes it really does take a village to raise our children. Certainly it is worth a try!

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