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The Relationship Between Unplanned Drinking and Event-Level Alcohol-Related Outcomes

College students are known for participating in heavy episodic drinking with both short and long term effects. The current study looks at the relationship between unplanned drinking and later-day alcohol-related outcomes at event level. Specifically, the researchers wanted to see if unplanned drinking is associated with later quantity of alcohol use, negative or positive consequences, and subjective evaluation of overall drinking event.

The final sample for the study included 96 undergraduate student drinkers from the age of 18-20. Surveys were sent to participants mobile devices and for 28 days they completed a morning report each day. Measures for the study included demographic information, alcohol use, planned versus unplanned drinking, consequences, and overall evaluation of drinking event. Alcohol use included if they drank the previous day along with how many standard drinks. Consequences included nine negative and eight positive responses. There were 94 reported unplanned drinking events and 375 planned. Drinking events were reported beginning from 9:00am to after midnight with an average of 10 hours between participants stating intentions and actually consuming the alcohol.

Results showed that at an event level, unplanned drinking was associated with fewer drinks and lower likelihood of negative consequences. They found individuals with higher unplanned drinking events had fewer positive consequences and there was no association between planned and unplanned drinking when it came to overall experience ratings. Finally, they found that unplanned drinking events were associated with lower “worth it” ratings. While more research should be done to assess differences in planned and unplanned drinking, this research provides information that may be useful when providing education to college students about the risks of heavy drinking events.  

Take Away: The current study looks at the relationship between unplanned drinking and later-day alcohol-related outcomes at event level. final sample for the study included 96 undergraduate student drinkers from the age of 18-20. Surveys were sent to participants mobile devices to complete a morning report. Measures for the study included demographic information, alcohol use, planned versus unplanned drinking, consequences, and overall evaluation of drinking event. Results showed that at an event level, unplanned drinking was associated with fewer drinks and lower likelihood of negative consequences. They found individuals with higher unplanned drinking events had fewer positive consequences and there was no association between planned and unplanned drinking when it came to overall experience ratings. This information may be useful when providing education to college students about the risks of heavy drinking events. 

Lauher, M. L., Merrill, J. E., Boyle, H. K., & Carey, K. B. (2020). The relationship between unplanned drinking and event-level alcohol-related outcomes. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. doi: 10.1037/adb0000553

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