In Brief

Is binge drinking more prevalent among students at large universities than those at smaller colleges? Do dry campuses stem student drinking-- or aggravate the problem? A report due in August from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) will help answer those questions.

The report is the culmination of a two-year literature review and investigation of the context, consequences, prevention and treatment of college drinking sponsored by NIAAA. A subcommittee of the NIAAA Advisory Council of 10 alcohol researchers and 10 college and university presidents conducted the investigation.

"This report will lay out all the areas of research that need attention--much of which is right in the realm of what psychologists do," says psychologist Mark Goldman, PhD, who co-chairs the subcommittee with University of Notre Dame President Rev. Edward A. Malloy. "Psychologists will be both surprised and shocked to see these findings. The need for psychological prevention and intervention efforts clearly is greater than has been recognized before."

NIAAA initiated the study to provide college administrators with information on which of the current interventions work, how they can control excessive drinking on their campuses, and how to identify areas where more research is needed, says Goldman. In the past, the question of how to restrain college binge drinking has stumped administrators and researchers, says Goldman, because research has not been widely available to inform their judgments.

"For example, should administrators put strong rules into place, and enforce them vigorously, or will a tough approach lead to more covert activity, and perhaps more liability?" says Goldman.

In addition, until now there has been little attempt to evaluate programs as they are put in place. And what may work in one setting may not work in another, says Goldman. The subcommittee, which includes psychologists G. Alan Marlatt, PhD, of the University of Washington, Sharon Wilsnack, PhD, of the University of North Dakota, and Robert Zucker, PhD, of the University of Michigan, looked at the epidemiology of college drinking across different types and sizes of colleges and universities, explored circumstances that influence heavy drinking, such as the presence of Greek organizations, and investigated factors tied to binge drinking, such as violence, sexual aggression and property damage. The subcommittee also took a broad look at prevention and treatment efforts to identify effective programs and policies and target areas ripe for further research.

The report of the subcommittee on college drinking of the NIAAA Advisory Council will be available online at www.niaaa.nih.gov in August.

--J. CHAMBERLIN