Trajectories of College Alcohol Involvement and Their Associations with Later Alcohol Use Disorder Symptoms
Little is known about what differentiates individuals whose drinking patterns escalate into problematic use following the transition out of college compared to those who learn to drink in a way that is consistent with independent adult roles. Patterns of alcohol use and problems during college may pre-sage progression toward problem drinking in adulthood. The present study sought to examine such patterns in an effort to delineate those at greatest risk. Research has not yet elucidated whether, when, and how these groups diverge. Our results indicate that students who report AUD symptoms one year following graduation reported greater alcohol involvement from the first semester and escalated their involvement with alcohol at a more rapid pace. We observed marked and measurable differences in drinking patterns between those who go on to exhibit AUD symptoms following college and those who do not. A close inspection of these differences reveals that relatively small absolute differences in alcohol consumption add up to large differences in alcohol-related consequences. Thus, markers of longer-term risk are present early in college, and greater escalation of drinking across college is an indicator that intervention is needed. Brief Motivational Interventions could help students to anticipate some of the challenges ahead as they transition from the college environment, as well as the potential deleterious effects of immoderate alcohol use on making a successful transition into adult roles. In addition to the beginning of college, our findings also point to critical periods during which screening and brief intervention may be optimally timed.
KeywordsCollege student drinking Transition out of college Joinpoint analysis Alcohol use disorder
This work was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Grant #Z R01DA018993 & Administrative Supplement: 3R01DA018993-05S1: Read, PI. Mark A. Prince is supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Training Grant T32-AA007583.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflicts of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual study participants.
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