intellectual vanities… about close to everything

Drinking Away Anxiety: New Program Finds Safer Ways For College Students To Cope

with one comment

Researchers from the University of Cincinnati are reporting on a pilot program aimed at curbing alcohol abuse among college students. Early promising results from this intervention program were presented Nov. 18 at the annual conference of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies in Philadelphia.

Principal investigator Giao Tran, UC associate professor of psychology, says the program was geared toward college students who turned to drinking to keep the edge off their anxiety at social gatherings.

Tran, along with Joshua Smith, a graduate student for the UC Department of Psychology, and Kevin Corcoran, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of psychology at Northern Kentucky University, developed a program that used motivational interviewing and behavioral therapy to help socially anxious undergraduates curb tendencies that could resort to hazardous drinking.

Tran says college students who abuse alcohol can encounter problems in four key areas:

  1. Neglecting responsibilities which can take a toll on grades as well as job performance
  2. Dangerous behavior such as drinking and driving
  3. Significant interpersonal problems such as getting into arguments and physical confrontations
  4. Legal problems

The challenge, Tran says, is motivating the student to get help. She adds that previous research has found that social anxiety was a unique predictor of alcohol dependence among adolescents. Research from UC psychologists has found that college students are more likely to seek help to relieve their anxiety over reporting a drinking problem.

The pilot program addressed both issues, as students were recruited into the program after reporting at least one heavy drinking episode (four or more drinks for women, five or more drinks for men), occasional to frequent drinking problems and discomfort from social anxiety in the month before entering this program, which resulted in 22 participants.

The intervention program consisted of three sessions (one session per week, running about an hour-and-a-half) with the first session exploring the participant’s history of social anxiety and alcohol use and personal feedback on how the two could be interlinked. The second session examined social anxiety, drinking-related problems and family risk factors for both problems. The third session involved role-playing in a social situation with a research assistant, which provided the student with tools to effectively cope with anxiety while managing alcohol consumption. Follow-up meetings were conducted one month and four months after the series of three sessions.

Tran says in the follow-up sessions, students reported a significant reduction in number of drinks consumed and in bouts of heavy drinking. Students also reported that they weren’t as fearful about being judged negatively by their peers, a common trigger for social anxiety. There was also a significant increase in the students’ confidence about turning down a drink around other people who were drinking.

“While prior studies have shown that a brief intervention using motivational interviewing helps reduce alcohol consumption or alcohol-related problems among college students, this study is the first to add strategies for coping with social anxiety in relation to alcohol intervention for college students,” says Tran.

Based on the preliminary results of the intervention program, Tran says UC researchers are now seeking additional funding to conduct a large-scale clinical trial on the findings.

J Stud Alcohol. 2004 Nov;65(6):715-24.

Alcohol use, cognitive correlates of drinking and change readiness in hazardous drinkers with high versus low social anxiety.

Tran GQ, Anthenelli RM, Smith JP, Corcoran KJ, Rofey DL.

Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Science, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. giao.tran@uc.edu

OBJECTIVE: Prevalence data and theoretical models suggest that socially anxious individuals comprise a significant subset of college hazardous drinkers and may benefit from brief interventions for both alcohol and social anxiety problems. The present study compared hazardous drinkers who have high social anxiety (HD-HSA) with hazardous drinkers who have low social anxiety (HD-LSA) in drinking and psychological characteristics that may distinguish the two drinker groups and inform development of group-specific interventions. METHOD: After completing a self-report assessment battery, 152 hazardous drinkers (51% men, median age = 19) were selected from an undergraduate volunteer sample on the basis of their scores on an alcohol screen. HD-HSA (n = 76) and HD-LSA (n = 76) were hazardous drinkers who scored in the top third and the bottom third, respectively, of the volunteer sample on a social anxiety measure. RESULTS: HD-HSA reported greater expectancies that alcohol reduces social anxiety and lower alcohol refusal self-efficacy in social drinking situations than HD-LSA did. HD-HSA also tended to report more frequent heavy drinking in negative affect situations, but the groups did not differ in consumption quantity, heavy drinking in positive affect situations or hazardous drinking levels. HD-HSA reported greater interest in attending a social anxiety workshop and showed a trend towards having stronger interest in an alcohol workshop than HD-LSA did, although the sample’s overall readiness to change alcohol behaviors was low. CONCLUSIONS: Study findings highlight the importance of situational specificity in alcohol assessment and suggest a need to develop group-specific interventions for college hazardous drinkers with high versus low social anxiety.

Written by huehueteotl

November 27, 2007 at 3:26 pm

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Social anxiety disorders in college students is very discomforting as I have been following in some forums. I am concerned about the mental health of the future of mankind. At the heart of Social anxiety disorder is the lack of self confidence and self esteem, so as educators if we can at a minimum boost these traits in students, that will go a long way to help them and secure their future. Peer pressure more often that not becomes too overbearing for students and then there is the pressure from parents and guardians who want to see the perfect student in their children. It is very important that the students are allowed to pursue stidies on the areas that they are comfortable with and not what guardians want or what the college qualifies them for by the process of grade ranking. When a student is “forced” to take up study that he or she is not comfortable with, it will be difficult for them to find the interest, which in turn will prevent them from concentrating or paying attention. Grades will suffer and a sense of failure will sink in. This leads to depression, and social anxiety disorders, whcih in turn will lead to alcohol and drug abuse. As educators and parents, we should take stock of reality and help those kids out. They need our mature thinking even more today.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: