Study: AlcoholEdu provides students with short-term insight

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AlcoholEdu promotes informed decisions when it comes to alcohol consumption in college, but has failed to yield long-term beneficial results, according to a national study.

For the past three years, the University has required all incoming freshmen and transfer students to complete the interactive, online course. According to a study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the program successfully reduces harmful drinking but only for a semester.

Kevin Prince, who operates the AlcoholEdu course at UT, said the course does not force a view on the students, but equips students with information to make responsible alcohol-related decisions. The most important part of the program is to educate the students on the realities of alcohol, Prince said. He said this is a clear distinction from advocating abstinence from alcohol and can lead to a positive impact in the lives of UT students.

According to the NIAAA study, topics such as driving under the influence and alcohol poisoning are heavily covered in AlcoholEdu, and these incidents are “significantly reduced” on campus as a result of the program, but only for the first semester.

“The long-term effects are not totally clear,” Prince said. “But it is safe to assume that all of the positive effects we see here during the first semester tend to subside after the holidays, on par with the national study.”

The “college effect” is the universal assumption that all incoming freshmen will inevitably be confronted with alcohol in college and will make poor decisions because of a lack of an immediate support system. Prince said that the so-called “college effect” is something that universities across the country are attempting to overcome, particularly with the help of AlcoholEdu.

Prince said the University does not see as much harm caused by alcohol as many other universities in the United States do.

“UT actually falls below the national average of alcohol-related incidents and is therefore not as big of a party school as people think,” Prince said.

He said UT Austin actually has a relatively high number of students who reported in AlcoholEdu that they considered themselves nondrinkers.

Despite the increase in alcohol-related incidents in the spring semester, some students believe AlcoholEdu provides incoming freshmen with pertinent knowledge about how to make informed choices.

“Even though I already knew a lot of the information taught in the course, some of the videos made me think about how I would handle a crisis caused by alcohol,” said political communications freshman Emily Linn.

In addition to AlcoholEdu, the University Health Services office provides several programs for educating students on handling alcohol such as alcohol and other drug consultations, where students can speak with a licensed professional counselor about and alcohol and drug issues.

According to the NIAAA’s study, these UT resources combined with the completion of AlcoholEdu is the most effective way to reduce the harmful effects of alcohol on college campuses.

Although AlcoholEdu provides students with certain insights on alcohol-related situations, some students have doubts about the program’s effectiveness in realistic individual experiences.

“[AlchoholEdu] did make me think about how I would handle certain things, but who knows what would happen in real life,” said liberal arts freshman Jordan Smith.

Printed on Wednesday, September 7, 2011 as: AlcoholEdu fails to prevent binge drinking over long haul.