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College Alcohol Abuse Reduction

April, 2009 marks the 22nd year of Alcohol Awareness Month.  

Tarzana Treatment Centers is participating with a series of articles meant to inform and educate the general public about alcohol abuse, dependence and treatment.  Considering that over 21 million Americans meet the criteria for alcohol abuse and over 53 million admit to past-month binge drinking, not to mention the many loved ones affected by each, our efforts are worthwhile.

New approaches to college student alcohol abuse are being explored as new data emerges from detailed studies.  For decades, the plan was to educate and warn first year students about the dangers of heavy drinking.  While this plan tends to plant a good seed in fresh minds, it has minimal effect on the behavior of most students.  The main reason is that these young minds have not yet had to cope with the academic and social stresses that come with college life.

A recent study at Ohio State University shows evidence that a student who drinks heavily throughout college might carry that pattern into adulthood.  This makes sense because these students drink to cope with college, and alcoholics, by definition, drink in order to cope with life-in-general.  So the student learns to cope by drinking troubles away instead of learning normal coping mechanisms that come from trial and error.

This study suggests in its conclusion that focus should be placed on junior year students.  This could help identify students who have used alcohol as a coping mechanism in their first two years of college.  These students could then be directed to resources that can help them avoid future alcohol problems.  It could also open the door to alcohol treatment for students and their families, and alcohol detox if dependence has set in.

Exserpts from the study are below.  A link to the full text follows:

-- Begin External Content --
STUDY HELPS IDENTIFY COLLEGE DRINKERS WHO MIGHT CONTINUE EXCESSIVE DRINKING AS ADULTS

COLUMBUS, Ohio – College students who are problem drinkers using alcohol to cope with personal problems and boost self-confidence are more likely to continue excessive drinking into adulthood, a recent study suggests.
The Ohio State University survey results suggest that adults who are still high-risk drinkers by age 34 may have inadvertently used alcohol to blunt the social and cognitive development that typically occurs during college, including the ability to handle alcohol.

High-risk drinkers in the survey who stopped problem drinking after college typically reduced their alcohol use during school – a sign in itself that their social development was closer to what is considered normal and on track.
If the subset of students most likely to continue problem drinking in adulthood can be identified during college, they might benefit from counseling or programming that specifically aims to lower long-term high-risk drinking, the researchers say. And the junior year might be the best time to introduce the intervention.
“We saw clear differences that, if they could be identified during college, could potentially lead to interventions that would make a difference in the long term,” said Ada Demb, associate professor of educational policy and leadership at Ohio State and senior author of the study.

Plenty of research has described the typical psychosocial and cognitive development that college students experience. Generally, development for young adults involves establishing an identity separate from parents and peers, sharpening judgment, developing interpersonal relationships and even mastering the use of alcohol.
Demb and Campbell compared the drinking survey results with typical college student development trends and found that high-risk college drinkers, depending on whether they grew out of the behavior or continued drinking into adulthood, appeared to have used alcohol for different purposes and in different quantities, which may have affected the rate of their social development during school.

Among high-risk drinkers, about 80 percent will grow out of that behavior. But 20 percent become what the researchers call “adult persistent” drinkers who maintain high-risk alcohol use well into adulthood. In this study, the results were very close to the national trend, with 78.9 percent of respondents scoring as “time limited” drinkers and 21.1 percent scoring as adult persisters whose current drinking behavior could cause them harm.

The reasons for drinking in college were strong indicators for differences between adults who grew out of problem drinking and those who persisted with high-risk alcohol use.
Adult persistent high-risk drinkers were more likely than others to use alcohol for developmental needs beyond the desire for the effect of alcohol and for help with social coping, common reasons for alcohol use among all high-risk college drinkers. The 21 percent of drinkers in the adult persistent group reported they had been more likely to use alcohol for self-confidence and to cope with personal problems during college.
“These students appeared to use alcohol to cope with or avoid developmental tasks,” Campbell said. “So then we’re asking if, in essence, they’re drinking instead of developing along other lines.”
Adult persistent drinkers also drank more alcohol during college than did the high-risk drinkers who eventually grew out of the behavior, indicating the time-limited group appeared to learn how to handle alcohol as they developed socially and cognitively while the adult persisters did not.

Many college-based alcohol intervention programs emphasize prevention and safety and are targeted toward first-year students. Demb and Campbell suggest that specialized programming for potential adult persistent drinkers would ideally focus on future consequences associated with continued excessive drinking, as well as assistance with developmental tasks such as introspective skill-building or developing social competencies outside of alcohol use.
The researchers also noted that family history of alcohol-related disease could be a strong influence on high-risk drinking behavior in college and beyond.
“I don’t think there’s a silver bullet here,” Demb said. “We’re not going to get all 20 percent of long-term high-risk drinkers with one kind of program.
“It’s also not just a college and university job to take care of all of this, but it is an opportunity. One step we can take is to equip the student affairs professionals who work with students day in and day out with more of this information so they might be more aware of differentiation of students.”

-- Source http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/adultdrink.htm --

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles makes a daily effort to find treatment news articles that we can share with our readers in the alcohol and drug treatment community.  The external content was found among other articles of equal informational and educational quality.





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