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Continuation and Initiation of Alcohol Use from the First to the Second Year of College:

Henry Wechsler, Nancy E. Isaac, Francine Grodstein, Deborah E. Sellers

Widespread and heavy alcohol use among American college students is a source of concern to college administrators and public health officials. This study surveyed a cohort of 611 college students during their first and second year of college in order to examine the development of alcohol use behaviors in college. Almost every student who used alcohol during the first year continued to do so during the second year. Similarly, many of the students who were binge drinkers the first year continued binge drinking the second year. One-third of male freshmen who had not hinged the first year initiated this behavior during the second year, although relatively few female students did so. Compared to continued users, the students who initiated alcohol use during the second year were light users. In addition, students who drank more heavily in high school were more likely to be binge drinkers in college than students who drank lightly in high school. The results suggest that heavy alcohol use is not predominantly a behavior that is learned in college. Consequently, programs that address alcohol use among college students need to focus on early detection and intervention rather than primary prevention. (J. Stud. Alcohol 55: 41-45, 1994)