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The Introduction of the Heavy and Frequent Drinker: A Proposed Classification to Increase Accuracy of Alcohol Assessments in Postsecondary Educational Settings

Cheryl A. Presley, Edgardo R. Pimentel

Objective: This study demonstrates the differences that exist within college drinkers identified as high-risk drinkers. Method: The study looked at alcohol and other drug (AOD) use patterns of the entire U.S. college student body, using a cross-section of institutions (public, private, 2-year, and 4-year) and students that reflected the enrollment patterns within geographic regions of the country. A survey that focused on safety and violence on college campuses, in addition to more traditional questions regarding the prevalence of alcohol and other drug use and negative consequences, was mailed to a stratified random sample. The final sample consisted of students from 96 institutions of higher education (N = 17,821; 45.3% males, 54.7% females) and was weighted to ensure an accurate representation of the student population in the United States. Results: We found there to be a broad range of problematic drinkers grouped together within the category “heavy drinking,” which is defined by a single episode (five or more drinks on one occasion). The seriously problematic drinkers can be differentiated from those less problematic by the inclusion of frequency in the criteria. Comparing heavy drinkers with “heavy and frequent drinkers,” we found rates of negative consequences to be almost three times higher for the heavy and frequent drinkers. In addition, the heavy and frequent drinkers account for nearly half of all negative consequences reported by all drinkers. Conclusions: Greater specificity in classification is a necessary component of alcohol research and intervention. (J. Stud. Alcohol 67: 324-331, 2006)