An important public health issue of our time is the excessive alcohol consumption and associated risk behaviors among college students. There is consistent evidence suggesting that young adults in college are drinking more than their non-college-attending peers and other populations[1, 2]. College students in many countries are at elevated risk for heavy drinking, with serious short- or long-term health negative consequences. Several studies have reported a wide range of alcohol-related problems in college settings, including academic impairment, blackouts, violence, accidents, unprotected sexual behavior, other substance use, and alcohol dependence[3–5].
Preventive efforts during the formative college years may present an opportunity to change drinking behavior among students. Early detection and intervention are vital to reduce the number of alcohol-related problems in college campuses today. Brief interventions (BIs) have emerged as a promising approach to provide early intervention, before or soon after the onset of negative consequences of alcohol consumption. There is convincing evidence for the efficacy and effectiveness of brief intervention in various healthcare settings[7, 8].
In the academic context, several reviews have summarized the results of studies evaluating interventions to reduce heavy drinking among college students. For example, Cronce & Larimer updated earlier qualitative reviews on individual-focused prevention and treatment approaches for college drinking[10, 11]. The investigators supported the efficacy of skill-based and motivational interventions that incorporated personalized feedback, with or without an in-person intervention. More recently, Seigers & Carey provided a critical review of the efficacy of brief interventions for alcohol use in college health centers and found similar results. BIs in these settings were considered acceptable and feasible for promoting risk reduction.
Carey et al. conducted a meta-analysis evaluating 62 randomized clinical trials published between 1985 to early 2007. Results were similar to ours and support the efficacy of individual-focused alcohol interventions in reducing the quantity and frequency of alcohol use and alcohol-related problems among college students. However, this review considered an extensive variety of methodological conditions (i.e. interventions delivered via various modalities and heterogeneous conditions of sample). Our purpose was to evaluate specifically a standardized promising intervention named Brief Alcohol Screening Intervention for College Students (BASICS), with methodological conditions more homogeneous that permit a more reliable comparison.
BASICS is a specific protocol of BI for college students delivered face-to-face and usually conducted over the course of two structured sessions, including motivational interview and personalized feedback based on student drinking behavior. It is especially relevant to encourage students to change their behavior by using empathy and warmth approach rather than confrontation. Moreover, clinicians can assist patients by helping them establish specific goals and build skills for modifying their drinking behavior.
Meta-analytic review often involves late-stage research and the resulting data should be of clinical and empirical value. A meta-analysis can clarify the current status of efficacy shown in the literature and help guide future research. Therefore, this article presents a systematic review and meta-analysis of the efficacy of BASICS in reducing alcohol consumption and associated problems among college students.