Is Alcohol and Other Substance Use Reduced When College Students Attend Alcohol-Free Programs? Evidence from a Measurement Burst Design Before and After Legal Drinking Age
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College drinking and its negative consequences remain a major public health concern. Yet, many prevention efforts targeting college drinkers are expensive, are difficult to implement, use indicated approaches targeting only high-risk drinkers, and/or are only marginally effective. An alternative strategy taken explicitly or implicitly by many colleges is campus-led alcohol-free programming which provides students with attractive leisure alternatives to drinking on weekend nights. This study aimed to extend work by Patrick et al. (Prevention Science, 11, 155–162, 2010), who found that students drank less on weekend nights they attended LateNight Penn State (LNPS) activities during their first semester of college. Here, daily diary and longitudinal data on college students’ daily lives and risk behaviors were collected from 730 students on 19,506 person-days across seven semesters at a large university in the Northeastern United States. Generalized linear mixed models were used to estimate alcohol and illegal substance use on weekend days as a function of LNPS attendance, gender, legal drinking status (≥ 21 years), and day of the weekend. Across college, students who attended LNPS used alcohol and illegal substances less in general and less on days they participated compared to themselves on days they did not participate. Legal drinking status moderated the association between LNPS attendance and alcohol and illegal substance use such that levels of use were lowest for students under 21 years old on weekend days they attended LNPS. Our findings provide support for campus-led alcohol-free programming as a potential harm reduction strategy on college campuses.
KeywordsCollege drinking Alcohol use Substance use Prevention Multi-level modeling
This research was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Grant R01 AA016016. The first author was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health under award number T32 DA017629. The third author is supported by grant numbers P50 DA010075 and P50 DA039838 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The views expressed in this article are ours and do not necessarily represent the official views of granting agencies.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals
The research was conducted in full compliance with the APA standards for ethical practice in research, under the review of the Pennsylvania State University Institutional Review Board. These findings have not been published in any form nor submitted for consideration elsewhere.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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