Emphasizing Downside of Drinking Doesn’t Persuade College Students, Experts Say

Trying to convince college students not to drink by emphasizing the downside of excessive drinking is ineffective, say researchers who recently presented their findings at the American Psychological Association Annual Meeting.

When researchers used Breathalyzers to show college students their blood alcohol content, it had the opposite of the intended effect, encouraging them to drink more, said E. Scott Geller, Director of the Center for Applied Behavior Systems at Virginia Tech. “We thought if we could demonstrate to students that their performance deteriorated under alcohol, they would be convinced that their alcohol consumption has put them at risk,” Geller told USA Today. “Knowing that one is impaired, physically and even emotionally, did not seem to reduce alcohol consumption.”

According to Laina Bay-Cheng of the University at Buffalo-State University of New York, who also presented a study at the meeting, students told her that alcohol is appealing because they see it as “liquid courage.” Drinking gives students an excuse to do things they normally wouldn’t, she says.

Close to 40 percent of college students in the United States engage in binge drinking and that number has remained virtually unchanged for decades. Almost 2,000 college students in the U.S. die each year from alcohol-related injuries. An estimated 600,000 students are injured while under the influence, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

4 Responses to Emphasizing Downside of Drinking Doesn’t Persuade College Students, Experts Say

  1. Mike Gimbel | August 22, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Not much of a surprise. Most of these kids started drinking in high school, so if they reached college they already beleive that there are few consequences to drinking. What they don’t understand are the facts of how alcohol impacts their decisions that often leads to violence, date rape, overdose and drunk driving crashes. The reality of college drinking is scary enough. We need to give the facts and back it up with resources to help.

    • Brian | August 26, 2011 at 2:50 pm

      The article says giving the information doesn’t decrease it, so why do more of it? It’s time to try a different tactic.

  2. Joe V Roberts | August 29, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    What does work in prevention?
    What about a coalition of community members working with youth to advocate for policies that provide sanctions and rewards for alcohol use and encourage the enforcement of laws to prevent alcohol abuse.

  3. Hiawatha Bouldin | June 6, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Not news to me. As long as we have younger students thinking that alcohol use is acceptable (and normal), of course they will really enjoy having great access to alcohol when they leave home. The issue is are we willing to admit that “our children” are doing these horrible things. The consequences, (assaults at horrific proportions), significantly outnumber those of our military members and yet we rarely see it covered in our mainstream media. Can’t fix things you don’t talk about.

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