Reducing substance involvement in college students: a three-arm parallel-group randomized controlled trial of a computer-based intervention

Addict Behav. 2015 Jun;45:164-71. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2015.01.019. Epub 2015 Jan 21.


The prevalence of alcohol and other drug use is high among college students. Reducing their consumption will likely be beneficial for society as a whole. Computer and web-based interventions are promising for providing behaviorally based information. The present study compared the efficacy of three interventions (computerized screening and motivational intervention [ASSIST/MBIc], non-computerized screening and motivational intervention [ASSIST/MBIi], and screening only [control]) in college students in Curitiba, Brazil. A convenience sample of 458 students scored moderate and high risk on the ASSIST. They were then randomized into the three arms of the randomized controlled trial (ASSIST/MBIc, ASSIST/MBIi [interview], and assessment-only [control]) and assessed at baseline and 3 months later. The ASSIST involvement scores decreased at follow-up compared with baseline in the three groups, suggesting that any intervention is better than no intervention. For alcohol, the specific involvement scores decreased to a low level of risk in the three groups and the MBIc group showed a positive outcome compared with control, and the scores for each question were reduced in the two intervention groups compared to baseline. For tobacco, involvement scores decreased in the three groups, but they maintained moderate risk. For marijuana, a small positive effect was observed in the ASSIST/MBIi and control groups. The ASSIST/MBIc may be a good alternative to interview interventions because it is easy to administer, students frequently use such computer-based technologies, and individually tailored content can be delivered in the absence of a counselor.

Keywords: Brief interventions; College students; Computer-based interventions; Randomized controlled trial; Substance abuse.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / prevention & control*
  • Alcohol Drinking in College*
  • Alcoholism / prevention & control*
  • Brazil
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Motivational Interviewing / methods*
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • Students*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Therapy, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Universities
  • Young Adult