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Are Protective Behavioral Strategies Associated with Fewer Negative Consequences on High Intensity Drinking Days?

High episodic drinking (HED), the consumption of 4-5 drinks on a given occasion, is common among college students and puts them at risk for experiencing negative consequences. Many students exceed HED and engage in high intensity drinking (HID). This puts students at an even higher risk for harm.


Protective behavioral strategies (PBS) such as planning how many drinks one will consume before going out, avoiding drinking games, drinking more slowly, using a designated driver, and avoiding alcohol are used to reduce harm from drinking.


A recent study used longitudinal data and followed 744 college students over 4 semesters, recording their drinking habits and use of PBS. The results showed that when students used manner of drinking PBS such as avoiding drinking games, there was less likelihood between HID and passing out from drinking. When students used serious harm reduction such as using a designated driver or avoiding alcohol, there was a reduced chance of no one being sober enough to drive, as well as regretted sexual behaviors.


Compared to HED, using PBS has a more significant impact when students engage in HID. Intervention to promote use of PBS could potentially eliminate harms due to drinking, especially on college campuses, where HID is prevalent.


Take Away: Use of protective behavioral strategies decreases negative consequences of drinking in students who participate in high intensity drinking.


Linden-Carmichael, A.N., Calhoun, B.H., Patrick, M.E., et al. (2018). Are Protective Behavioral Strategies Associated With Fewer Negative Consequences on High-Intensity Drinking Days? Results From a Measurement-Burst Design. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

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