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.