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Jan 24, 2014 07:42 AM EST

Combinations of Interventions Effective In Lowering Alcohol Consumption among Teenagers, Study

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A team of researchers at Brown University and The Miriam Hospital suggest colleges to subject all their freshmen to tests during the first few weeks of college to determine their alcoholism risk. They also suggested institutes offer efficient combinations of interventions to new students who report drinking problems.

"Adoption of our recommended strategies would enable colleges to become more proactive - that is, targeting interventions to those students who have initiated alcohol use and may experience some alcohol-related problems but before their alcohol use meets criteria for alcohol dependence or abuse," Lori Scott-Sheldon, study lead author and a psychiatry and human behavior assistant professor (research) at Brown, said in a press release.

The team studied the effectiveness of 62 interventions provided in randomized and controlled clinical trials involving more than 24,000 freshmen across the country in the last decade.

Of the 62 interventions, creating a personalized feedback report that can include details like expenditure on alcohol, calories consumed as a result of drinking, and rise in blood-alcohol levels was found to be the most effective. Displaying such information to students helps lower the drinking frequency, quantity, and other alcohol-related problems.

The researchers said that combining four or more components in one intervention were also effective in cutting freshmen's alcohol consumption and related problems. For example: college officials can recommend students to replace alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic ones, set blood alcohol level limits, and identify risky situations such as fraternity house parties where the student is at risk of over-consumption.

Although the interventions will not completely stop students from drinking, it can help them reduce alcohol quantity.

For example, a student might reduce his drinking from 2 pegs of beer to 1 peg. If this drinking behavior is adopted by all students across campus, the impact is large - a phenomenon known as the 'Prevention Paradox.' If every student reduces their drinking quantity, the overall alcohol consumption is reduced.

"College drinking is one of those cases where the majority of harms or alcohol-related problems that accumulate on a campus can be attributed not to the relatively small number of really problematic drinkers, but to the majority of moderate drinkers because there are so many of them," said co-author Kate Carey, a professor in the Brown University School of Public Health.

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