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IUHR - Rapid Response to College Drinking Problems

Abstract: Rapid Response to College Drinking Problems

Funded by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Amaro, Lead Researcher, Mantella, PI

In late 2003, administrators at Northeastern University, concerned over rising rates of alcohol-related emergency room transports, sexual assaults and campus security problems, commissioned MASI Research Consultants to conduct an evaluation of student substance abuse-related health and counseling services and recommend changes in the system. Within a week of MASI's report to the University administration, an alcohol-fueled riot primarily involving Northeastern students erupted on the outskirts of the campus following the New England Patriots' Superbowl victory. This incident resulted in one fatality, three student injuries, extensive community property damage and widespread public outcry - clearly illuminating the report's recommendations for expanded alcohol services for the Northeastern student body.

This project seeks to implement an innovative approach developed to address two objectives:

  1. reduce the adverse health effects of student problem drinking at Northeastern University
  2. reduce property damage and related security costs to the university and the surrounding community

This approach, the University Assistance Program (UAP), represents a novel intervention design, derived from well-established Employee Assistance Program and Student Assistance Program technologies. Additionally, this project seeks to establish a relationship between Northeastern and established alcohol research scientists for the purpose of developing a primary prevention and early intervention program to reduce alcohol-related problems.

The effects of these proposed activitites will be measured by a two part research effort. Part One, designed to measure the overarching changes resulting from the application of the UAP, includes a quasi-experimental study with three different cohorts over three years. A stratified random sample of NU undergraduate students will complete surveys assessing AD use, consequences, sexual risk behavior, expectancies regarding AD use, awareness of and attitudes toward NU AD policies and services. Part Two utilizes a true-experimental research design to assess behavioral outcomes among students participating in the experimental UAP program compared with "services as usual" at University Health and Counseling Services or AD educational programs mandated for students with campus AD violations. The research effort employs validated evaluations at baseline, 3 and 6 months to measure AD use, consequences, awareness of and attitudes toward NU AD policies, stress, mental health, and sexual risk behavior.


Part 1. Year 1 cohort survey collected data from randomly selected 1070 undergraduate NEU students (41% response rate) stratified by sex, race/ethnicity, and class. More than half (58%) of respondents were female, White (62%), under 21 years of age (56%), and lived in on-campus housing (53%), reflecting the profile of NEU undergraduate students. Some of results from preliminary descriptive analysis indicated that more than half (59%) reported binge drinking (5 or more drinks in one sitting) in past 2 weeks and 21% reported use of marijuana or other illegal drug in past 30 days. We also found that students were neutral in their support of NEU alcohol and drug use policies. In addition, a high number of students reported experiences of a variety of negative consequences related to academic, social, psychological, physical, sexual and legal areas. Year 2 cohort survey was completed 3/4/07 with 1283 participants (53% response rate). Data analysis of outcome comparisons across 2006 and 2007 to date show no significant changes in most behavioral alcohol and drug use measures with the exception that compared to 2006, students in the 2007 Cohort sample reported a lower average number of drinks on Saturdays, increased awareness of NEU alcohol and drug policies but lower support for most of those policies. Analyses of predictors of support for NEU alcohol and drug policies were related to student drinking patterns and campus contextual factors.

Part 2. The "OnTap" study began 9/06. As of May 21st, 2007, a total of 190 students had completed the baseline survey. A majority (n=169, 89%) of students who completed the survey were judicially mandated students. Eighty-eight participants have completed the 3-month follow-up survey thus far. Six-month follow-up surveys began in April and 13 participants had completed the survey to date. We have begun conducting preliminary data analyses from judicially mandated students who were randomized into either UAP (experimental condition) or OSCCR (control condition).

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