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Early Interventions May Curb College Drinking

A new study shows that potential problem-drinking freshmen can be helped by "pre-interventions."

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John Belushi as "Bluto," poster child for
undergrad excess. Photo via

By Valerie Tejeda

01/31/12

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Penn State researchers are working to identify ways to prevent students becoming problem drinkers. They tested two different types of intervention approaches—peer-based and parent-based—on incoming freshman. The participants were all former high-school athletes, a group considered at high risk for heavy alcohol use, risky sexual behavior and drunk driving. The peer-based interventions required subjects to meet one-on-one with a trained peer facilitator within the first two weeks on campus, while the parent-based intervention had parents go through a 35-page handbook outlining how to discuss alcohol issues with their college kids. Results showed that parent-based intervention and peer-based intervention were most successful when students received just one or the other—as opposed to both. "From here we may be able to tailor the intervention to different types of students, identifying those students who are at different types of risk," says Michael J. Cleveland, research associate at the Prevention Research Center and the Methodology Center. "By figuring out a way to match the intervention to the individual you can also maximize your resources for intervention." Cleveland is now continuing his efforts to identify better intervention strategies among another sample of college students.

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