Fighting Alcohol Abuse on College Campuses

College students

Alcohol Abuse is a problematic behavior on college campuses, with 59.4% of college students report drinking in the past month and 39% report binge drinking [1]. College campus are increasingly working to combat alcohol among its students.

College drinking it typically seen as a right of passage, and occurs at parties on and off campus, in dorm rooms, or with friends. It is an epidemic that most universities and colleges nationwide and working to reduce.

1,800 deaths per year are due to excessive drinking according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [2] and 97,000 students between 18-24 are the victims of alcohol related sexual assault or date rape. This number is startling to the non-college goer, and many parents do not realize how much drinking occurs on campuses.

Resources on College Campuses

At Trinity College in Connecticut, they have implemented a Night Watch program where non drinking peers attend parties to keep drinking in check. These programs are created to help problem drinking from developing. Universities recognize that alcohol can cause death and addiction.

Students who struggle with anxiety or interpersonal relationships may find that alcohol can be a release from these issues, allowing them to interact more with peers.

College StudentsMany universities are offering prevention programs, educational programs, and events that do not involve alcohol. Universities mandate training for RA’s in alcohol awareness and prevention, as well as other mental health issues that could be underlying alcohol abuse. They are trained to know how to help students get connected to the resources they need.

Colleges are also utilizing mobile technology to address drinking on campus. This includes a comprehensive approach involving consistent enforcement of the drinking age and consumption laws, trained intervention specialists, and zero tolerance policies.

Identifying Students At Risk

The Conrad N Hilton Foundation is a group of experts on college age drinking who came together from 17 universities and organizations. They had web based trainings and intervention programs that can aid in combating alcohol on campus.

Some options are geotargeting which could enable message delivery to a student who has been identified to be at risk, at the time and place where heavy drinking episodes occur. There are also web based screenings and brief interventions offered on campuses which have been shown to be effective in reducing unhealthy drinking behaviors.

Colleges, during freshman orientation typically offer alcohol education and counselors on campus are available for addiction or problem therapy. Typically successful college alcohol prevention programs consist of a campus wide commitment to enforcing policy, extensive prevention and education programs, environmental policies to reduce alcohol’s availability, and professional assistance for students with identified drinking problems [3].

Most colleges, when surveyed in 2013 however, found that many only had one of these policies in place [3]. Research by the Boston University School of Public Health recommends that social media messaging, screening and interventions should be implemented at colleges to prevent and reduce binge and underage drinking [4].

Adjusting to college can be difficult for many students, such as unstructured time, being away from home, school studies, and the widespread availability of alcohol [6]. College students tend to have higher binge drinking rates and higher rates of drinking under the influence than non-college peers.

The first 6 weeks of freshman year can be a vulnerable time for heavy drinking and alcohol-related consequences due to student expectations and social pressures during this adjustment period.

College Alcohol Intervention Matrix

The most successful interventions for Fighting Alcohol on College Campuses is that they use multiple strategies. These can be ones that target the campus community and student body to change the environments where drinking occur, reducing the availability of alcohol, and implementing education programs around the effects and consequences of alcohol.

Many schools utilize the College AIM which stands for the College Alcohol Intervention Matrix, lists over 60 alcohol prevention strategies.

Individual level strategies according to the College AIM work to produce changes in attitudes and behaviors related to alcohol use rather than the environment where alcohol occurs [6]. Typically when used, it may decrease a student’s alcohol use, or related risk taking behaviors.

This can include brief intervention, teaching life skills, and alcohol related education. Environmental level strategies according to the College AIM is formated to reduce underage and excessive drinking by changing the place, setting, occasions and circumstances which alcohol use occurs [6].

College CampusAccording to George Koob, director of the NIAAA, reports that he hopes the College AIM can be used by administrators who have skills in the area of alcohol and want to do something about underage drinking and choose strategies that would work for their university [7].

According to the US Department of Education [8] there are various strategies that colleges can be using to create a positive influence regarding alcohol and drugs.  These can be

  • Forming partnerships with local communities to ensure that alcohol is not served to minors or already intoxicated students;
  • Strengthening academic requirements;
  • Scheduling classes on Friday mornings which can discourage parties on Thursday nights;
  • Keeping the library and recreational facilities open longer in the evenings;
  • Providing a wide range of alcohol free activities; policies for repeat offenders;
  • Launching media campaigns to inform students of the amount of drinking that actually occurs on college campuses as students tend of overestimate the amount of drinking among their classmates.

In conclusion, there are many strategies that colleges can and do use to help Fight Alcohol on College Campuses. Both individual and environmental techniques can help create an environment of zero tolerance and mindful drinking when it does occur.


Image of Libby Lyons and familyAbout the Author: Libby Lyons is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS). Libby has been practicing in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and other comorbid issues in various agencies. Libby has previously worked as a contractor for the United States Air Force Domestic Violence Program, Saint Louis University Student Health and Counseling, Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute Eating Disorders Program, and has been in Private Practice.
Libby currently works as a counselor at Fontbonne University and is a Adjunct Professor at Saint Louis University, and is a contributing author for Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope. Libby lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family, running, and watching movies.



The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 23, 2017.
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About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.