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Program Profile: Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention of College Students (BASICS)

Evidence Rating: Effective - More than one study Effective - More than one study

Date: This profile was posted on June 16, 2011

Program Summary

A preventive intervention for college students designed to help students make better decisions about using alcohol. The program is rated Effective. The intervention group significantly reduced the negative consequences related to drinking, lowered drinking quantities over the 4-year period, and had significantly fewer drinks per weekend than the control group. There were no significant differences in the quantities of alcohol consumed during the week between the two groups.

This program’s rating is based on evidence that includes at least one high-quality randomized controlled trial.

Program Description

Program Goals
Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention of College Students (BASICS) is a harm-reduction intervention for college students. Students often conform to patterns of heavy drinking they see as acceptable, while holding false beliefs about alcohol’s effects or actual alcohol-use norms. BASICS is designed to help students make better decisions about using alcohol. The program’s style is empathic, rather than confrontational or judgmental. It aims to 1) reduce alcohol consumption and its adverse consequences, 2) promote healthier choices among young adults, and 3) provide important information and coping skills for reducing risk.

Target Population/Eligibility or Target Sites
BASICS is aimed at college students 18 to 24 years old who drink alcohol heavily and have experienced or are at risk for alcohol-related problems such as poor class attendance, missed assignments, accidents, sexual assault, and violence.

Program Theory
BASICS uses brief, limited interventions designed to prompt students to change their drinking patterns. Heavy drinking among students decreases as the population ages. The program is designed to prompt behavioral changes in the early years of college. The brief interventions aim to modify the participants’ responses to peers in alcohol-related situations.

Program Components
The program is conducted over the course of two 50-minute interviews. As a harm-reduction approach, BASICS aims to motivate students to reduce risky behaviors instead of targeting a specific drinking goal such as abstinence or reduced drinking. Students can be identified through routine screening or through referral from medical, housing, or disciplinary services. Before or after the first interview, the student receives a self-report questionnaire to complete. From the questionnaire and the first interview, information is gathered about the student’s alcohol consumption pattern, personal beliefs about alcohol, understanding of social alcohol norms, and family history. The second interview, which occurs about 2 weeks after the initial interview, provides the student with personalized feedback on his or her patterns of drinking, typical and peak blood alcohol concentration, comparison of drinking patterns with other college students of the same age and gender, and level of family history of alcohol problems. Moreover, the program challenges inaccurate alcohol norms and myths about alcohol’s effects, highlights alcohol-related negative consequences, suggests ways to reduce future risks associated with alcohol use, and provides a menu of options to assist in making changes. Screening and referral for stepped-care treatment is also offered as needed.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Consequences of Alcohol Consumption
The Baer and colleagues (2001) study showed that the Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention of College Students (BASICS) intervention significantly reduced the negative consequences related to drinking experienced by the treatment group, when compared with the control group.

Quantities Consumed
Additionally, the intervention significantly lowered the drinking quantities of the treatment group compared with the control group over the 4-year period. However, there were no significant differences in the frequency of drinking between the control and treatment groups.

Study 2
Alcohol Consumption
The Turrisi and colleagues (2009) study showed that the BASICS (only) intervention group reported significantly lower peak blood–alcohol content at the 10-month follow-up than the control group did. Similarly, the participants randomized to BASICS reported significantly fewer drinks per weekend than the control group. There were, however, no significant differences in the quantities of alcohol consumed during the week between the treatment and control groups.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
The Baer and colleagues (2001) study aimed to measure the long-term effects of Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention of College Students (BASICS). Their study sampled students, all under 19 years old and due to attend the University of Washington in fall 1990 (n= 4,000). The students were all sent a questionnaire in the spring preceding their matriculation to identify their levels of drinking. Fifty-one percent provided complete questionnaires and showed a willingness to participate in the study. Among the students who completed the questionnaire, a high-risk sample was identified and randomized into a control (n= 113) and a treatment group (n= 145). Another normative comparison group (n= 113) was randomly selected from the entire pool of responders. Of the high-risk sample, 55 percent were female and 84 percent were white. The normative comparison sample was 54 percent female and 78 percent white. There were no significant baseline differences between the groups. Measures were taken at baseline, at 6 months posttest, and at follow-ups at 1-year intervals for up to 4 years.

The participants in the treatment group received a single-session intervention similar to motivational interviewing. They were given personal feedback on their alcohol consumption patterns for the 2 weeks preceding the intervention. They also received information about the risk and myths associated with alcohol consumption. And they received advice and tips to reduce risks associated with drinking. The following year, participants receiving the intervention were mailed personalized feedback that analyzed their drinking reported at baseline and at 6 months and 1 year postintervention. The participants identified as highest risk (n= 56) were contacted by phone to learn of concern over their drinking and were offered additional feedback.

The study measured three drinking measures, which were standardized to the normative comparative sample at baseline. These were drinking frequency, drinking quantity, and negative consequences related to drinking. The measures were analyzed using mean standardized factor scores and differences.

Study 2
Turrisi and colleagues (2009) studied incoming freshman at large universities in the Northeast and the Northwest, screening them during summer 2006. To be eligible the participants needed to be high school athletes transitioning to college. High school athletes transitioning to college have been previously identified as a group at high risk of alcohol use.

Participants were randomized to four conditions: a control group (n= 305), a treatment group that received BASICS (n= 228), and two other treatment groups—one that received a parent intervention (n= 279) and one that received both BASICS and the parent intervention (n= 278). The BASICS intervention consisted of 1-hour one-on-one sessions with a trained peer facilitator. Participants were directed toward the computerized feedback from their baseline assessment that examined consumption patterns and behaviors. They were given information on the myths and risks associated with alcohol as well as protective behavioral strategies. The baseline and follow-up (conducted about 10 months postintervention) procedures were administered in the form of an online self-report questionnaire.

The study used intent-to-treat analyses and mean difference tests (Cohen’s d) to assess the variations in alcohol use between the groups. Peak blood–alcohol content was calculated, as were the quantity of drinks, during the week and on weekends.
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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Baer, John S., Daniel R. Kivlahan, Arthur W. Blume, Patrick. McKnight, and G. Alan Marlatt. 2001. “Brief Intervention for Heavy-Drinking College Students: 4-Year Follow-Up and Natural History.” American Journal of Public Health 91(8):1310–16.

Study 2
Mastroleo, Irene Markman Geisner, Joel R. Grossbard, Sean J. Tollison, Ty W. Lostutter, and Heidi Montoya. 2009. “A Randomized Clinical Trial Evaluating A Combined Alcohol Intervention for High-Risk College Students.” Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 70:555–67.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Grossbard, Joel R., Nadine R. Mastroleo, Jason R. Kilmer, Christine M. Lee, Robert Turrisi, Mary E. Larimer, and Anne E. Ray. 2010, “Substance Use Patterns Among First-Year College Students: Secondary Effects of a Combined Alcohol Intervention.” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 39:384–90.

Mastroleo, Nadine R., Robert Turrisi, JoLynn V. Carney, Anne E. Ray, and Mary E. Larimer. 2010. “Examination of Posttraining Supervision of Peer Counselors in a Motivational Enhancement Intervention to Reduce Drinking in a Sample of Heavy-Drinking College Students.” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 39:289–97.

Tollison, Sean J., Christine M. Lee, Clayton Neighbors, Teryl A. Neil, Nichole D. Olson, and Mary E. Larimer. 2008. “Questions and Reflections: The Use of Motivational Interviewing Microskills in a Peer-Led Brief Alcohol Intervention for College Students.” Behavior Therapy 39:183–94.

Whiteside, Ursula, Jessica M. Cronce, E.R. Pedersen and Mary E. Larimer. 2010. “Brief Motivational Feedback for College Students and Adolescents: A Harm Reduction Approach.” Journal of Clinical Psychology: In Session 66(2):150–63.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Motivational Interviewing for Substance Abuse
A client-centered, semidirective psychological treatment approach that concentrates on improving and strengthening individuals’ motivations to change. The practice is rated Effective. Individuals in the treatment groups significantly reduced their use of substances compared to those in the no-treatment control groups.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Drugs & Substance Abuse - Multiple substances
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Program Snapshot

Age: 18 - 24

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, American Indians/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, White, Other

Geography: Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): Campus

Program Type: Individual Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Alcohol and Drug Prevention

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Model Programs Guide, National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices, Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development (formerly Blueprints for Violence Prevention)