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Brief alcohol interventions for mandated college students: comparison of face-to-face counseling and computer-delivered interventions


Kate B. Carey, Center for Health and Behavior, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244-2340, USA. E-mail:


Aims  College students who violate alcohol policies are often mandated to participate in alcohol-related interventions. This study investigated (i) whether such interventions reduced drinking beyond the sanction alone, (ii) whether a brief motivational intervention (BMI) was more efficacious than two computer-delivered interventions (CDIs) and (iii) whether intervention response differed by gender.

Design  Randomized controlled trial with four conditions [brief motivation interventions (BMI), Alcohol 101 Plus™, Alcohol Edu for Sanctions®, delayed control] and four assessments (baseline, 1, 6 and 12 months).

Setting  Private residential university in the United States.

Participants  Students (n = 677; 64% male) who had violated campus alcohol policies and were sanctioned to participate in a risk reduction program.

Measurements  Consumption (drinks per heaviest and typical week, heavy drinking frequency, peak and typical blood alcohol concentration), alcohol problems and recidivism.

Findings  Piecewise latent growth models characterized short-term (1-month) and longer-term (1–12 months) change. Female but not male students reduced drinking and problems in the control condition. Males reduced drinking and problems after all interventions relative to control, but did not maintain these gains. Females reduced drinking to a greater extent after a BMI than after either CDI, and maintained reductions relative to baseline across the follow-up year. No differences in recidivism were found.

Conclusions  Male and female students responded differently to sanctions for alcohol violations and to risk reduction interventions. BMIs optimized outcomes for both genders. Male students improved after all interventions, but female students improved less after CDIs than after BMI. Intervention effects decayed over time, especially for males.