Alcohol Interventions for Mandated College Students: A Meta-Analytic Review

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Objective: When college students violate campus alcohol policies, they typically receive disciplinary sanctions that include alcohol education or counseling. This meta-analysis evaluated the efficacy of these “mandated interventions” to prevent future alcohol misuse. Method: Studies were included if they evaluated an individual- or group-level intervention, sampled students mandated to an alcohol program, used a pretest-posttest design, and assessed alcohol use as an outcome. Thirty-one studies with 68 separate interventions (N = 8,621 participants; 35% women; 85% White) were coded by independent raters with respect to sample, design, methodological features, and intervention content; the raters also calculated weighted mean effect sizes, using random-effects models. A priori predictors were examined to explain variability in effect sizes. Results: In the 5 studies that used assessment-only control groups, mandated students reported significantly less drinking relative to controls (between-groups contrasts), d+ ranged from 0.13–0.20 for quantity and intoxication outcomes. In the 31 studies that provided within-group contrasts, significant effects were observed for all outcomes in the short-term (i.e., ≤ 3 months postintervention), with d+ ranging from 0.14–0.27; however, fewer significant effects appeared at longer follow-ups. Four commercially available intervention protocols (i.e., BASICS, e-CHUG, Alcohol 101, and Alcohol Skills Training Program) were associated with risk reduction. Conclusions: Providing mandated interventions to students who violate campus alcohol policies is an effective short-term risk reduction strategy. Continued research is needed to maintain initial gains, identify the most useful intervention components, and determine the cost-effectiveness of delivery modes.

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