Reducing College Binge Drinking

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drunk college studentIt is rare that a college student goes out to enjoy a nice glass of wine, or a few sips of beer. Generally, college students who drink are doing so with the objective of getting drunk. This is why they are a part of the population that has been known to binge drink.

Excessive alcohol consumption may be one of the greatest threats to college students because of the risky decisions and dangerous situations they can find themselves in. However, researchers believe they have found a way to intervene on a college student who is one their way to drinking too much.

One study that was conducted fairly recently asked students throughout their night of drinking how they felt, how drunk they wanted to get and tested their blood-alcohol content. At the start of the evening, students were asked what their drinking goal was. Some students said they wanted to get a buzz, while others wanted to get drunk. Those who wanted to get a buzz generally kept their BAC around 0.05, while those that wanted to get drunk kept their BAC level around 0.1. The researchers at San Diego State University gathered a lot of information from these college students about their drinking behaviors, but they were not sure how to synthesize the data. So, they reached out to an engineer. This unusual solution allowed the information to be viewed by someone who was trained to see and predict patterns.

“The way the students made decisions about drinking actually resembled the single most common feedback controller that’s used in engineering. It’s called a proportional-derivative controller, and it measures how far a system has moved from a particular set point and adjusts accordingly. It’s the same as cruise control on a car,” reported Kevin Passino, an Ohio State engineer.

Analyzing the information gathered in the first study, made it clear that another study needed to be conducted. This time, college students wore alcohol-monitoring devices as well as exercise-monitoring devices. This will allow the research team to not only gauge how the students consume alcohol but also how alcohol effects their sleep, exercise and eating habits. The ultimate goal is to develop an app that would be able to alert users if they have consumed too much.

“We’re looking for the best points to intervene strategically, so that we can aid a person in their decision-making and potentially derail problematic behaviors,” said Ohio State professor of social work John Clapp.

Influencing behaviors on an individual level sometimes requires larger intervention to change the social norms of a group. This is often one of those cases, as even young people who otherwise wouldn’t drink too much, if any at all, get caught up in the group think of the college atmosphere. Changing these behaviors early on can prevent not just physical and sexual assaults on campuses, but also stop more severe alcohol abuse problems before they get worse.