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Alcohol Prevention and Intervention

Updated January 23, 2017

The University at Buffalo recognizes that the use of alcohol and other drugs can significantly interfere with the mission of the university and pose a serious threat to the health and well-being of the members of our community. Our comprehensive approach to alcohol prevention and intervention focuses on early introduction of education and skill building; as well as correcting misperceptions that many students hold about college alcohol, tobacco and other drug use to reduce the harmful consequences of alcohol and other drug use. Our goal is to support students in achieving their personal and academic potential.    UB follows and implements best practices per the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Addiction (NIAAA) and works closely with the UB Research Institute on Addictions to refine and improve intervention options and protocols. 

Most students grow up in a culture that equates the consumption of alcohol with having fun, relaxing, and reducing tension. Drinking alcohol has become a rite of passage for some young people, and many students come to college having learned to drink during their high school years.

The National College Health Assessment (NCHA) surveys students before entering college about how much alcohol they have consumed in the last two weeks. According to its most recent survey of schools, the percentage of students who abstain has decreased and the number of students who drink once they enter college has increased.

According to the NIAAA, about four out of five college students drink alcohol and 38% who drink alcohol also participate in binge drinking

Harmful alcohol use can produce serious outcomes. In 2014, the NIAAA reported   that 1,825 college students die each year from alcohol- related injuries; over 600,000 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking; 97,000 students experienced alcohol-related sexual assault and 25% of students had academic consequences from drinking, including missing class, falling behind in class, doing poorly on exams or papers and receiving lower grades overall.

In recent studies by researchers at Penn State it was found that parents can have a profound impact on their son’s or daughter’s drinking behaviors in college if they speak with them the summer before they come to college.  Parent interaction helped mitigate the college effect for students who had not started drinking and even had an impact on students who were already drinking-- including those drinking frequently in high school. When parents talk to students about drinking before they leave for college the students are 20 times more likely to transition to a healthier drinking pattern, including non-drinking.

In recognition of the seriousness of this issue, the University at Buffalo created the Alcohol Strategies Committee.  This Division of Student Affairs task force is charged with taking a multi-faceted view of the issue and is developing evidence-based alcohol prevention, intervention and enforcement strategies.  

Task force committee participants include representatives from across the university, including student government, Campus Living, Student Life, Counseling Services, Wellness Education Services, Parking and Transportation, Judicial Affairs & Student Advocacy and University Police.  Committee outcomes include the addition of alcohol-free late night activities, the Good Samaritan Policy, changes in bus services, increased enforcement and presence where people are getting on and off buses to keep them safe.

The health and safety of UB students is always our highest priority. However, students may be reluctant to get immediate medical or other professional assistance or provide it to others because of concerns that their own behavior may be in violation of UB rules or regulations. To minimize any hesitation students or student organizations may have in obtaining help for themselves UB has developed the “Good Samaritan” approach to guarantee that a bystander reporting in good faith or a victim/survivor reporting sexual violence to university officials or law enforcement will not be subject to campus conduct action for violations of alcohol and/or drug use policies occurring at or near the time of the sexual violence.

UB requires that all incoming students complete AlcoholEdu, a supplemental online course that motivates behavior change and reduces high-risk drinking and alcohol-related harms among college students, and they must acknowledge receipt of and affirm UB’s “Student Code of Conduct, University Standards and Administrative Regulations” before they may register for classes. 

Positive Trends in Alcohol Use for First Year UB Students

At UB, about 13% of our students are drinking in a high-risk way the summer before they come to campus. Drinking does rise the summer before entry and then again in the first six weeks of school. This is known as the “College Effect”. Our goal is to mitigate the college effect. We have seen positive trends at UB that show that non-drinking has increased and high-risk drinking has decreased.

UB takes the problem of excessive alcohol and other drug use very seriously and will continue to be proactive in its education, prevention and treatment efforts.

Programs and Services for Alcohol and Other Drugs

Prevention and harm reduction are the key components of reducing the risk and impact of alcohol and other drugs abuse.  University programming is designed to provide students with tools to deal with alcohol in a mature manner and correct misperceptions that many students hold about college alcohol, tobacco and other drug use. 

Prevention Education

  • Parent & Family Orientation is a two-day program held concurrently with (but separately from) the student orientation program.  It is an opportunity to engage parents in preparing their children for college life and attitudes related to alcohol use.  Young adults are influenced by parents’ attitudes toward alcohol use as well as the drinking behavior they have been exposed to as children. Reminiscing about drunken college experiences in a positive way contributes to students’ belief that drinking is an expected and appropriate activity in college. Parents can positively influence students by clearly stating their values with regard to avoiding underage alcohol use and then communicating its academic and legal consequences . Keeping lines of communication open while the student progresses at UB is also very helpful and supportive.
  • AlcoholEdu is an online education program that helps reduce high-risk drinking and alcohol-related harm among college students.  The program motivates behavior change by resetting unrealistic expectations about the effects of alcohol, educating about the link between drinking and its negative impact on academic and personal success, and helping students practice safer decision-making.
  • “What’s in Your Cup?” is an alcohol education workshop presented to first year undergraduate students by Wellness Education Services in their curriculum  This workshop was developed to reinforce risk reduction and abstinence messages introduced in the mandated online AlcoholEdu program, to challenge student misperceptions regarding the use of alcohol by UB students and to promote Wellness Education Services and provide resources for students.
  • AlcoholEdu for Parents provides parents with  judgment-free information, key facts, and important resources that will help them have productive conversations that can impact their child’s safety, decision-making, and personal development in college. 

Programming for Groups and Organizations

  • “Drink, Flip, Think” is a fun interactive program aimed at providing an educational and active workshop on the risks of competitive drinking games and other popular drinking trends.  In these staff facilitated workshops, students openly discuss drinking games and even play a simulated game to explore the high levels of consumption that can occur when engaging in these activities. The workshop is interactive and intended to be most helpful to students who are already familiar with alcohol and its effects.
  • “Women and Alcohol Workshop” highlights the way women are affected by alcohol biologically, socially and culturally in comparison to men.  Strategies are shared to assist women to reduce the quantity of alcohol consumption and the frequency of drinking.
  • Bystander Intervention Training is a workshop focused on empowering each of us in identifying situations that involve, or have the potential to involve sexual assault and empower them with the tools and confidence to safely intervene.
  • “Don’t Cancel that Class” can cover a class that would otherwise be cancelled by an instructor. The Student Wellness Team can use the “cancelled” class to deliver alcohol and other drug related programming such as “Drink, Flip, Think,”  “Women and Alcohol Workshop,” and “Bystander Intervention Training.”
  • UB Late Night Alternative Activities makes available to students quality late night entertainment during prime social times so they may learn healthy ways to socialize that do not involve alcohol and drugs.  Late night programming provides an alcohol-free environment with opportunities for students to gain experiences in programming, leadership development, and responsible social interaction.  UB Alcohol-free Alternatives include
    • UB Late Night
    • Movies
    • Student Clubs
    • Intramural sports teams
    • Informal gatherings with friends
    • Events in the residence halls
    • Music
    • Off-campus excursions
  • Orientation Leaders, Resident Advisors, and Community Advisors receive training in skills to identify signs of alcohol and drug abuse and how to seek help for students at risk.

Intervention

  • The UB-SAFER program is an intervention workshop available to students to reduce potential consequences associated with alcohol and other drug usage. Every student who violates the UB Code of Conduct must go through this program. Program participants are subject to an initial screening to determine their level of alcohol and/or marijuana usage and consequences and then assigned an appropriate level of intervention..  High-risk students receive one-on-one interactions with an alcohol specialist.   About 750 students/year go through the UB-SAFER program.  
  • UB Counseling Services provides assessment, diagnosis, education, and counseling related to alcohol and other substance use and abuse.  Research shows that college students who receive a single individual counseling session will often significantly reduce their substance abuse. Counseling can help students reduce risk in their choices in a confidential, non-judgmental environment. In addition to individual counseling, the following services are provided:
    • Online screening allows students to anonymously receive feedback regarding their risk for alcohol abuse and other mental health problems and provides information on resources available to them.
    • Motivated for Change Group utilizes an evidence-based treatment for individuals with substance use disorders. It is a goal-directed counseling method for resolving ambivalence and promoting positive change by eliciting and strengthening the person’s own motivation for change.
    • Consultation and advice for friends, family members, staff, and faculty who may be concerned that a UB student is abusing alcohol or other substances.
    • In addition, Counseling Services also provides referrals to community providers for students who are in need of more intensive substance abuse treatment.