198843 Longitudinal patterns of alcohol consumption among college students: Implications for early intervention with high-risk drinkers

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 2:30 PM

Amelia M. Arria, PhD , Center for Substance Abuse Research, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Kimberly M. Caldeira, MS , Center for Substance Abuse Research, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Kathryn B. Vincent, MA , Center for Substance Abuse Research, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Laura M. Garnier, MA , Center for Substance Abuse Research, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Sarah J. Kasperski, MA , Center for Substance Abuse Research, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Kevin E. O'Grady, PhD , Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
College student drinking patterns are often characterized as either “binge” or “non-binge” drinking, ignoring the possibility that more complex differential patterns exist. Identifying high-risk groups might require more systematic examination of drinking patterns over time. Longitudinal data were used to investigate changes in alcohol consumption patterns among 1,253 college students from a large public university, ages 17-19 at our baseline interview. Four annual interviews assessed frequency and quantity of alcohol consumption and diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence; 81% (n=1,005) completed all four interviews. Participants were categorized at baseline according to typical number of drinks consumed per drinking day: 18% light drinkers (1-2 drinks/day), 44% moderate drinkers (3-5 drinks/day), 31% heavy drinkers (6 or more drinks/day), and 8% who did not drink in the past year. Drinking patterns of these groups were examined at three annual follow-up interviews. Within each group, average past-month drinking frequency increased over time, while quantity consumed remained stable. In each year, “heavy drinkers” identified at baseline continued drinking significantly more often and in greater quantities than individuals whose drinking was “light” or “moderate” at baseline. While 9% of baseline “heavy drinkers” reduced their drinking by year four (to <3 drinks/day), 60% were still drinking heavily, and 49% met criteria for alcohol dependence at least once in the study. By contrast, only 9% of “light drinkers” identified at baseline became dependent. The finding that many high-risk drinkers had stable and heavy drinking patterns throughout college has implications for early intervention by peers, parents and college administrators.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the longitudinal relationships between quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption in college students. 2. Describe the relative persistence over time of drinking patterns that were established in the first year of college. 3. Describe a rationale for early identification of high-risk drinkers in their first year of college.

Keywords: Students, Alcohol Use

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Amelia M. Arria, Ph.D. is the Associate Director at the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) at the University of Maryland, College Park. At the University of Maryland, she has led several major research efforts in Maryland, including topics such as the evaluation of alcohol and drug treatment for youth and adults; drunk driving, the health behaviors of college students, and treatment for drug-dependent pregnant women. Her other research interests include the assessment of substance abuse, patterns of alcohol and other drug abuse, physical and mental health consequences of alcohol and drug problems, effective methods of drug prevention for youth, and the intersection between drug use and violence. She has also published in the areas of maternal and child health, neuropsychology, and predictors of childhood deviant behaviors. Her educational background is a blend of the theory of developmental psychology with the practice of public health. She received a B.S. in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell University, a Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and completed post-doctoral training at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. She holds a faculty appointment at the University of Maryland.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.