UConn’s Class of 2009 took
and passed the alcohol education program AlcoholEdu in larger numbers than any of their predecessors, and many appear to be taking it to heart, a survey by the company Outside the Classroom concludes.
The survey asked more than 100,000 freshmen nationwide, including nearly 2,000 at UConn, about their attitudes and behaviors regarding drinking.
The students were surveyed once during the summer, before they entered college – and before they took the AlcoholEdu course – then again
in October and November, after they had settled in at college and completed the course.
“The typical concern universities have is that freshmen will increase their drinking during the first semester of college due to their new-found freedom,” says Thomas Szigethy, director of
alcohol and other drug education and services.
“It’s known as ‘the college effect.’
“What we have found at UConn through our prevention efforts and the use of AlcoholEdu is that when students are educated on the risks around alcohol consumption, they realize they don’t want to take the risks themselves,” Szigethy adds.
“The UConn freshmen who took AlcoholEdu this past summer and fall have shown that they have not increased their drinking due to coming to
The number of UConn freshmen who said they abstained
from alcohol decreased from
48 percent in the summer to
40 percent last fall.
“Nationally, problematic drinkers (10 or more drinks in a day at least once in the two weeks before the surveys) increased 183 percent, but only 5 percent at UConn,” says Szigethy.
“Heavy episodic drinkers (at least five drinks in a day at least once over two weeks) increased 100 percent nationally, but 12 percent here.”
Szigethy says the surveys also indicate that UConn freshmen are more likely to change their behavior after taking the AlcoholEdu course, are drinking more safely, and show a much better understanding of blood alcohol levels and the dangers associated with drinking.
“In the second survey, taken after AlcoholEdu ended, more than 70 percent of the freshmen expressed increased knowledge about blood alcohol levels, and more than 40 percent knew more about the role of alcohol in poor choices regarding sex,” he says.
“And the protective factors, the desire to watch out for and help friends who have been drinking, all increased.”
Hoping to increase that knowledge and prevent tragedies, Szigethy has also signed on with the Northeast Communities Against Substance Abuse (NECASA) to give all students a wallet-sized card that describes the signs of alcohol poisoning, and what students should do if they see a friend exhibiting any of those signs.
To entice the students to carry the card regularly, they can also present it at a number of businesses in northeastern Connecticut and receive a discount.
Szigethy and his staff are working to add businesses to the discount list, and urge students to contact his office for the forms necessary to ask their favorite retailers to join the program.
“There is no silver bullet to getting the kids to stop destructive behaviors associated with heavy drinking. But if we can get them to pay attention to that issue, it should raise awareness so they ask themselves ‘Do we really have to drink to that level?’” says Szigethy.
“We want it to become socially unacceptable to drink that much.
“We want to hit them from every direction we can, and these cards are just another tool,” he says.
“We want to let them know there is an element of risk when they’re drinking, and encourage them to keep an eye out for each other.”
The cards will be distributed from multiple points on campus, starting in late March.