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Alcohol, Drug, Patterns, Habits, Consumption, Use, Consequences, Students, Lifestyles Project


Executive Summary: This report, besides presenting the Lifestyles Project findings, summaries and discussion, contains two important Appendices. Appendix A consists of Western's Comprehensive Plan to Combat Student Alcohol Abuse, Including Underage Drinking, as as submitted to the Higher Education Coordinating Board. Appendix B consists of preliminary findings on the effectiveness of the Wellness Hall. The executive summary includes summaries of all three of these sections. Lifestyles Project Findings The WWU Lifestyles Project surveyed a randomly selected, stratified sample of 2500 students enrolled at Western during spring quarter, 1992, regarding their use of alcohol and drugs, the consequences of using, and motivation to change patterns of use. Completed questionnaires were received from 1217 students for a nearly 50% return rate Overall, the results of the survey suggested that a large proportion of the student population (76.6 %), including those under the legal age, drink alcohol at least once a month. While factors such as class standing and age affected level of alcohol consumption, differences by gender were the most dramatic. Generally speaking, while males and females keep pace in their frequency and quantity of alcohol consumption up to a point, at higher levels of consumption men tend to drink more often and in larger quantities than females. Moreover, males tend to report the highest rates of "at risk" drinking; that is, drinking at a binge level (5+ drinks at one setting) and higher. At Western, as nationwide, alcohol is the drug of choice for college students, with survey respondents reporting relatively scant use of drugs like cocaine and LSD, and low use of marijuana. Patterns of alcohol use at Western appear threefold: 1) nearly a quarter of survey respondents reported no drinking at all in the previous month; 2) of respondents indicating any frequency of drinking whatsoever (about three-quarters of the survey population), 31.3% reported drinking 1-2 drinks and 22.7% reported drinking 3-4 drinks on typical occasions, which places them in a low to moderate drinking norm; and 3) of respondents indicating any frequency of drinking whatsoever, 29.8% reported binge drinking on typical occasions and 57.2% reported binge drinking on peak occasions. This last drinking pattern suggests that an alcohol environment may exist at Western that contributes to substantial social and academic risks for Western students. Issues of concern include that a substantial percentage (67.4%) of those who report any frequency of drinking whatsoever were under the legal drinking age, and that well over half of the respondents overall (64.0%) reported at least one alcohol-related problem in the last six months. Of particular relevance to the academic mission of university life are the discrepancies found between students' perception for risk of negative academic consequences due to alcohol-related effects and the actual occurrence of those outcomes. Actual occurrences were nearly double and sometimes treble that of perceived risk. These findings suggest that perception of vulnerability to negative alcohol effects may differ enough from actual occurrences of negative alcohol effects to pose a threat to students' academic success and persistence. Although the university has raised awareness of campus alcohol and drug policies and programs--nearly two-thirds of respondents reported they knew of such efforts—most respondents stated that official university policies and programs do not effect their own personal levels of use. Comprehensive Plan to Combat Student Alcohol Abuse In response to the alcohol predicament on campus, WWU has developed a comprehensive plan for combating student alcohol abuse and its consequent negative academic, health, and social outcomes. WWU's plan anticipates improvement in reducing the incidence of student alcohol abuse both on and around campus because it is based on the public health model, which views both individual students who drink and the environments in which they drink as the targets for major interventions. Based on the systems approach inherent within the public health model, WWU will utilize four major strategies to decrease both individual problem use of alcohol and the drinking norms on campus: 1) primary prevention seeks to reduce risk for alcohol problems or prevent the occurrence of alcohol abuse and/or underage drinking before those problems occur; 2) secondary prevention programs seek to halt, reverse, or retard alcohol abuse problems after they have occurred, but before they lead to life-altering or life-threatening consequences; 3) tertiary prevention efforts seek to reduce the risks of severe alcohol abuse, and 4) health promotion efforts seek to develop positive environments and community policies, rules, and norms that support and encourage students who are already making choices not to abuse alcohol or to drink illegally thereby leading to the creation of a new "critical mass" who do not view alcohol abuse as a typical and expected feature of college life. (See Appendix A.) Wellness Hall: Preliminary Findings University Residences and the Primary Prevention and Wellness Center collaborated to open the wellness residence hall at WWU in Fall Quarter, 1993. The creating of four floors of Nash Hall as an alcohol and drug free zone was made possible by a FIPSE grant. Participating students signed substance-free living agreements, thereby voluntarily committing to abstain from the use of alcohol, tobacco or drugs while residing on campus. During its first quarter of existence, there were no violations of this voluntary code. Furthermore, some preliminary information--reduced vandalism and fewer alcohol related incidents--suggests that students in the wellness community are consuming less alcohol than their counterparts in a correspondent freshmen residence hall. An initial administration of the CORE alcohol and drug survey also suggests that students residing in the wellness community are choosing to consume less alcohol.




Digital object produced by Office of Survey Research, Western Washington University, and made available by University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

College students--Alcohol use--Washington (State)--Bellingham--Statistics; College students--Drug use--Washington (State)--Bellingham--Statistics

Title of Series

Technical and research reports (Western Washington University. Office of Institutional Assessment and Testing) ; 1993-06






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