New approach to student alcohol abuse

Acknowledging that students will drink on campus is an important step in creating effective policies.

After studying student alcohol use for more than 15 years, Auburn University professor Christopher J. Correia is encouraging administrators to take the judgmental sting out of their drinking policies.

This week Wiley publishing will release Correia’s latest book, which he hopes will become a new policy model for campuses across the country: “College Student Alcohol Abuse: A Guide to Assessment, Intervention and Prevention.”

“The research firmly points out, repeatedly, that the majority of college students either don’t drink at all or drink in a way that most people would consider to be safe and quite moderate,” says Correia. “There are plenty of students with problems, but they don’t all have the same problem. There are short-term problems, perhaps just one particular night, and then there are longer standing problems. We don’t serve students well when we try to treat every problem the same way.”

Correia co-authored “Student Alcohol Abuse” with researchers from the University of Memphis and Brown University, along with input from other prominent drug and alcohol analysts.

“It’s a public health issue,” says Correia. “We need to move away from abstinence-based, restrictive in-patient solutions, and realize there are lots of other treatment models out there — models that are more reality-based than thinking that college students are never going to drink.”

Positive shift

While alcohol abuse remains a problem, Correia says the situation is improving: “If you look at the numbers of students that engage in binge drinking, or at the numbers of deaths, injuries and accidents, it’s hard to be super optimistic. Those numbers have remained fairly stable. However, we are seeing a positive shift: There are more interventions out there that have empirical support. That means administrators can start to have more confidence in their options.”


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