Case Studies - Alcohol

Although the social norms approach is most widely known for its effectiveness in reducing heavy episodic alcohol consumption* and alcohol-related harm among college students, effective social norms interventions targeting alcohol have now been reported in high schools as well.

Here you will find detailed descriptions of a select number of alcohol-focused social norms projects in both universities and high schools. Use the navigation bar to the left to read more about the following projects:

Intervention Site Reduction:
Heavy Episodic Alcohol Consumption
Universities & Colleges  
Northern Illinois University (NIU)
44% over 10 years
Hobart & William Smith Colleges (HWS) 40% over 5 years
Rowan University (Rowan) 23% over 5 semesters
University of Missouri-Columbia (MU)
21% over 2 years
University of North Carolina (UNC)
30% over 5 years
University of Arizona (UA) 29% over 3 years
Western Washington University (WWU) 20% over 3 years
Florida State University (FSU) 22% over 3 years
Michigan State University (MSU) 26% over 3 years
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) See project description
High Schools  
DeKalb & Sycamore 14% over 2 years
Evanston 11% over 2 years

*A note on terminology:
There has been a great deal of discussion in the prevention field about the inappropriate use of the term "binge drinking" to characterize the consumption of 5 or more drinks per occasion for men and 4 or more drinks per occasion for women (the so-called 5/4 measure). More significant, perhaps, is the argument that the 5/4 measure is an inadequate predictor of negative consequences. This measure is further problematic given that the level of consumption targeted for reduction varies considerably from one intervention site to the next. For these and other reasons we have generally chosen to replace the term "binge drinking" with "heavy episodic alcohol consumption."

For further information regarding the inaccuracy of the term "binge drinking," consult the following resources:

Alcohol and Other Substance Abuse Issues' Proclamation
by Inter-Association Task Force (IATF)
The IATF Proclamation, issued in August 2000, requests that researchers and agencies refrain from using the term "binge drinking "except as it is generally and historically used to denote a prolonged …period of intoxication…" Further, the IATF urges the use of "definitions that are objectively defined by health research data that account for weight, gender, quantity of alcohol, and frequency and duration of consumption," such as Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC).

"A Note to the Field: On 'Binge Drinking"

by The Higher Education Center

This October 2000 press release by the Higher Education Center provides a comprehensive explanation of why most researchers in the prevention field now reject the use of the word "binge" to describe "having 5/4-plus drinks over some unspecified period of time."

"Back to School and Binge Drinking on College Campuses"

by John A. Carpenter
(from Recovery, the newsletter of the American Council on Alcoholism)
An October 1998 note on the recently announced editorial policy of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol. According to this policy, "the term 'binge' should be used only to describe an extended period of time during which a person repeatedly administers alcohol or another substance to the point of intoxication, and gives up his/her usual activities in order to use this substance.

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