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Prev Sci. 2019 Jul;20(5):741-752. doi: 10.1007/s11121-018-0974-6.

Trajectories of College Alcohol Involvement and Their Associations with Later Alcohol Use Disorder Symptoms.

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Department of Psychology, Colorado State University, 1876 Campus Delivery, Fort Collins, CO, 80523, USA.
Department of Psychology, University at Buffalo, Park Hall, #168, Buffalo, NY, 14203, USA.


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.


Alcohol use disorder; College student drinking; Joinpoint analysis; Transition out of college

[Available on 2020-07-01]

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