A “one size fits all” to the treatment of problematic alcohol use in college students may not be the most effective treatment strategy, suggests research by Henson, Pearson, and Carey (2015). Using complex statistical models, these researchers report that the type of college student, rather than the type of intervention that they receive, predict response to different interventions to reduce drinking. Most (76%) of the students in the sample of 1,040 reported drinking less following an intervention which included either brief motivational interviewing or one of several online educational resources for alcohol use. However, when followed over one year, most (84%) of the students started drinking about as much as they had before the intervention. Surprisingly, one in ten of the students did not experience any kind of benefit from the interventions and around 8% actual increased their drinking during the study. Students were more likely to respond to any one of the interventions if they were female, older, started drinking later in life, did not engage in drinking games, and realized that other students did not drinks as much as they did. Excessive use of alcohol in college campuses is known to be a serious public health issue. Although there are many interventions aimed at reducing drinking, many students do not respond to these interventions and often lose whatever gains they did have. The results from the current study suggest that one of the factors driving the low success of interventions for alcohol use is that they do not consider that each student is different and may thus require more specific, as opposed to general, treatment. The study authors recommend that more studies address the factors that sustain heavy drinking in young men who engage in drinking games and have skewed ideas about how much others drink.
Society for Psychotherapy Research (SPR)
Marna S. Barrett, Ph.D.
Mood & Anxiety Disorders Treatment Research Unit
University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
3535 Market St., Suite 670
Philadelphia, PA 19104