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Reducing alcohol use in mandated college students: A comparison of a Brief Motivational Intervention (BMI) and the Expectancy Challenge Alcohol Literacy Curriculum (ECALC).

College students are at risk for binge drinking leading to negative consequences such as academic failure, sexual assault, and even fatality. One problem that has been discovered with interventions is the lack of students actively engaging in treatment. The current study looks at the effectiveness of a web-based intervention approach called the Expectancy Challenge Alcohol Literacy Curriculum (ECALC). The hope was to change expectancies and reduce alcohol use along with comparing outcomes to a Brief Motivational Intervention (BMI) with personalized normative feedback (PNF) approach.

407 undergraduate students were recruited to participate in the study. Inclusion criteria included self-reported risky drinking behavior, at least one binge drinking episode within the last 30 days, and willingness to provide informed consent. Exclusion criteria included further evaluation for alcohol dependence and any use of other substances. The ECALC was a 45 minute interactive online program with alcohol expectancy research findings, media literacy training, and interactive experiences. The BMI consisted of a 45-55 minute interaction with a clinician. Participants first complete baseline measures and then received a psychosocial interview. Following this they were randomly assigned one of the interventions concluding with a follow-up appointment four weeks after the intervention.

Overall, both programs showed significant reduction for all alcohol use variables and harms with no variability between genders. Results also showed the ECALC was superior for four use variables including mean blood alcohol and peak blood alcohol concentration, peak drinking per sitting, and drinking days per month. Neither group was superior for mean drinks per sitting, mean drinks per week, and binge drinking. Analysis did show that the two interventions could not be considered equivalent in effectiveness due to comparison of program effects being inconclusive. The takeaway from the study is that expectancy challenge interventions can be successful in reducing short-term alcohol use and that more research should be completed on it’s potential for long term effects.

Take Away: The current study compares two interventions including the Expectancy Challenge Alcohol Literacy Curriculum (ECALC) and a Brief Motivational Intervention (BMI) to see the potential differences in the approaches. 407 undergraduate students were recruited, and randomly assigned to one of the interventions. Overall, both programs showed significant reduction for all alcohol use variables and harms. ECALC was superior for four use variables, but the two interventions could not be considered equivalent due to comparison of program effects being inconclusive. Expectancy challenge interventions may be successful in reducing short-term alcohol use and that more research should be completed on it’s potential for long term effects.

Dunn, M. E., Fried-Somerstein, A., Flori, J. N., Hall, T. V., & Dvorak, R. D. (2020). Reducing alcohol use in mandated college students: A comparison of a Brief Motivational Intervention (BMI) and the Expectancy Challenge Alcohol Literacy Curriculum (ECALC). Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 28(1), 87–98. doi: 10.1037/pha0000290

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