Brief physician advice for heavy drinking college students: a randomized controlled trial in college health clinics

J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2010 Jan;71(1):23-31. doi: 10.15288/jsad.2010.71.23.


Objective: The aim of this study was to test the efficacy of brief physician advice in reducing alcohol use and related harm in college students.

Method: The College Health Intervention Projects (CHIPs) is a randomized, controlled clinical trial with 12-month follow-up conducted in five college health clinics in Wisconsin; Washington state; and Vancouver, Canada. Of the 12,900 students screened for high-risk drinking, 484 men and 502 women met inclusion criteria and were randomized into a control (n = 493) or intervention (n = 493) group. Ninety-six percent of students participated in the follow-up procedures. The intervention consisted of two 15-minute counseling visits and two follow-up phone calls, and used motivational interviewing, contracting, diary cards, and take-home exercises.

Results: No significant differences were found between groups at baseline on alcohol use, age, socioeconomic or smoking status, rates of depression, or measures of alcohol-related harm. At 12 months, the experimental subjects reduced their 28-day drinking totals by 27.2%, and the control group reduced their totals by 21%. A mixed effects repeated measures model found a statistical difference in favor of the brief-intervention group (beta = 4.7, SE = 2.0, p = .018) in 28-day drinking totals. The total Rutgers Alcohol Problem Index score was also significantly different during the 12-month follow-up period (beta = 0.8, SE = 0.4, p = .033). There was no difference on the other outcome measures of interest, such as frequency of excessive heavy drinking, health care utilization, injuries, drunk driving, depression, or tobacco use.

Conclusions: The study supports resource allocation and implementation of alcohol screening and brief physician advice in primary care-based college health clinics.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Alcohol Drinking / therapy*
  • Counseling* / methods
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods
  • Physician's Role* / psychology
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Primary Health Care / methods
  • Student Health Services* / methods
  • Universities*
  • Young Adult