Community Impact on the Negative Effects of Drinking by College Students: Making a Difference

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Keg Parties are frequent on college campuses: Photo by dmuth

College and keggers go together like Mom and apple pie.

Unfortunately, college parties also go together with DUIs, sexual assault, missed classes, and binge drinking.

Dr. Mark Wolfson and colleagues studied ten colleges in North Carolina to determine if community efforts could curb college drinking, and its associated disasters.

Results of the research are encouraging, and suggest that colleges can reduce the negative consequences of excessive drinking among students.

Measurements of Drinking and Negative Consequences

Wolfson et al. measured four variables to pinpoint the amount of drinking on campus.

The researchers asked students questions via a website about the following behaviors: the number of days they drank alcohol, the number of days of binge drinking (defined as five or more drinks for men, and four or more for women in one drinking session), the greatest number of drinks consumed in the past month, and the number of days they became inebriated in an average week.

The consequences of drinking were categorized in two broad classes: personal injury and second-hand injury. Personal, or self-injury, included strained relationships, vomiting or urinating in public, DUIs, being pushed, hit, assaulted, or threatened, experiencing lack of sleep or study time,  finding vomit or trash in your own residence, and having physical injuries requiring medical intervention, such as automobile and bicycle accidents, or stab or gunshot wounds. The researchers also tracked second-hand injuries to others, such as pedestrians or friends that required medical intervention.

Interventions by SPARC (The Study to Prevent Alcohol Related Consequences)

Wolfson’s study, termed SPARC, The Study to Prevent Alcohol Related Consequences, used a community organizing approach, implemented over a three year period. Community programs were implemented in five campuses which were matched with five campuses that did not receive SPARC intervention.

Colleges in the experimental group hired a full-time, specially trained, campus coordinator, formed a task force of community and campus representatives, and implemented community and campus actions targeted to the needs of the individual campus. Interventions on the campuses included implementing designated drivers programs, rewarding students without alcohol infractions, instituting bans on alcohol paraphanelia, and teaming up with local law enforcement and landlords to discourage negative consequences of alcohol abuse.

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