Objective: Little is known about the effects of alcohol-related infractions and resulting reprimands for invoking behavioral change among mandated college students. The primary aim of this study was to assess the extent to which students significantly reduce their drinking between the time of an alcohol-related violation and the sanctioned intervention.
Method: Data came from 175 (70% male) students mandated to the Rutgers University Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program for Students because of infractions of university rules about alcohol and drug use. At intake, students reported on their alcohol consumption for the 30 days before the violation and the 30 days before the intake assessment.
Results: Mandated students significantly reduced peak blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels, total weekly drinks, and frequency of alcohol use after the violation before any intervention. Those students who had received a legal or medical referral (i.e., a serious infraction) reduced their alcohol consumption (BAC and total drinks) significantly more than those referred by residence hall advisors.
Conclusions: The alcohol-related violation (including the event itself, getting caught, and/or getting mandated to an intervention) contributes to reductions in alcohol use for mandated college students. The finding that the seriousness of the infraction resulted in greater reductions in alcohol use suggests that the students' cognitive self-appraisal and affective response to the incident may be underlying mechanisms for their changes. Knowing if mandated students have already made significant changes in their drinking before intake would provide counselors with a valuable opportunity to identify and reinforce successful harm reduction strategies and could inform the type or intensity of intervention needed.