VA ABC Grant
Spit for Science was conceived with the guiding principle that research findings should be fed back into university programming aimed at prevention and intervention. Spit for Science is a university-wide initiative focused on understanding factors that contribute to risky alcohol use. The findings are then fed back into the VCU administration and wellness community to enact tailored, effective prevention and intervention programming. Alcohol is the most widely abused substance on college campuses and underage and risky drinking remain consistent problems at VCU. With the Spit for Science research project as a resource, our coalition is dedicated to reducing risky alcohol use among our students.
Working with VCU's Wellness Resource Center, the VCU Police Department, VCU Fraternity/Sorority Life and the VCU Academic Learning Transformation Lab and using Spit for Science research as the foundation, we will utilize two related, evidence-based practices as the foundation for our prevention programming.
Motivational Feedback Interventions
The current “gold standard” for reducing risky alcohol use among college students is the use of brief motivational feedback interventions (Larimer and Cronce, 2002; Lee et al., 2010), which have demonstrated efficacy delivered via in-person and web-based platforms (Chiauzzi et al., 2005; Carey et al., 2009; Hustad et al., 2010). These programs generally combine elements of cognitive-behavioral skill training, and personalized feedback in a motivational interviewing style. They provide students with information about how their drinking compares to campus norms. They also help students see possible consequences associated with excessive alcohol use such as impact on academic performance and career goals, and they empower students to undertake new strategies to monitor their drinking, set limits, and reduce risk. They have been adopted for both universal prevention programming intended for all college students, and targeted programming for mandated students (Barnett et al., 2004; Bosari and Carey, 2005; White et al., 2006; Hustad et al., 2010).
Tailored (to an individual/group) Interventions
Recently, a literature has begun to emerge that focuses on prevention programming tailored to individual risk profiles. Conrod et al. developed a school-based alcohol prevention program that targets personality risk profiles: anxiety sensitivity, hopelessness, impulsivity, and sensation-seeking, and shows robust effects on reducing adolescent drinking behavior (Conrod et al., 2013; O'Leary-Barret et al., 2013). Schuckit and colleagues developed a tailored intervention focused on low level of response to alcohol, a known biological risk factor reflecting a need for larger amounts of alcohol to experience effects, that has been robustly associated with higher alcohol intake and increased risk for the development of alcohol-related problems (Schuckit et al., 2009). They found that individuals with the low level of response risk factor did much better (reduced risky alcohol use) in a tailored prevention/intervention program (Schuckit et al., 2012). We have replicated this in Spit for Science (Savage et al., 2015).
Spit for Science is in a unique opportunity to further develop collaborative programming and effect real change in the areas of underage and high-risk drinking. Our current data provide details about VCU student alcohol use, alcohol obtainment, related consequences, and alcohol use patterns across the college years. This project takes the strong collaborative ties we have formed and, using the Spit for Science data resource, allow us to get our outreach programming efforts off the ground. Once established on campus, these resources and this coalition will be sustainable from year to year. Further, because our Spit for Science project tracks and studies student alcohol use from year to year we will be able to evaluate the effectiveness of our programming on exacting change in alcohol use patterns in our students.