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Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention in a College Student Health Center: A Randomized Controlled Trial

James F. Schaus, Mary Lou Sole, Thomas P. McCoy, Natalie Mullett, Mary Claire O'Brien

Objective: This study tested the effectiveness of brief primary care provider interventions delivered in a college student health center to a sample of college students who screened positive for high-risk drinking. Method: Between November 2005 and August 2006, 8,753 students who presented as new patients to the health service at a large public university were screened for high-risk drinking, and 2,484 students (28%) screened positive on the 5/4 gender-specific high-risk drinking question (i.e., five or more drinks per occasion for men and four or more for women). Students who screened positive for high-risk drinking and consented to participate (N = 363; 52% female) were randomly assigned either to a control group (n = 182) or to an experimental group (n = 181). Participants in the experimental group received two brief intervention sessions that were founded in motivational interviewing techniques and delivered by four specially trained providers within the student health center. Data on alcohol use and related harms were obtained from a Web-based Healthy Lifestyle Questionnaire, 30-day Timeline Followback alcohol-use diaries, the Rutgers Alcohol Problem Index (RAPI), and eight items from the Drinker Inventory of Consequences-2L. Results: Repeated measures analysis showed that, compared with the control group (C), the intervention group (I) had significant reductions in typical estimated blood alcohol concentration (BAC) (C = .071 vs I = .057 at 3 months; C = .073 vs I = .057 at 6 months), peak BAC (C = . 142 vs I = .112 at 3 months; C = .145 vs I = .108 at 6 months), peak number of drinks per sitting (C = 8.03 vs I = 6.87 at 3 months; C = 7.98 vs I = 6.52 at 6 months), average number of drinks per week (C = 9.47 vs I = 7.33 at 3 months; C = 8.90 vs I = 6.16 at 6 months), number of drunk episodes in a typical week (C = 1.24 vs I = 0.85 at 3 months; C = 1.10 vs I = 0.71 at 6 months), number of times taken foolish risks (C = 2.24 vs I = 1.12 at 3 months), and RAPI sum scores (C = 6.55 vs I = 4.96 at 6 months; C = 6.17 vs I = 4.58 at 9 months). Conclusions: Brief interventions delivered by primary care providers in a student health center to high-risk-drinking students may result in significantly decreased alcohol consumption, high-risk drinking, and alcohol-related harms. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs, Supplement No. 16: 131-141, 2009)