Brief Alcohol Screening and
Intervention of College Students
BASICS (Brief Alcohol Screening and intervention of College Students) is a preventive intervention program for college students 18 to 24 years old. It is aimed at students who drink alcohol heavily and have either experienced or are at risk for alcohol-related problems such as poor class attendance, missed assignments, accidents, sexual assault, and violence. BASICS is appropriate for any student who uses alcohol, especially those curious about their drinking. BASICS provides an opportunity to assess individual use patterns, identify potential changes, and discuss ideas to help reduce the risk of future problems.
The brief intervention relies primarily on a motivational interview to provide students with the skills, knowledge, and insight into the consequences of drinking. Studies have evaluated various applications of BASICS and found promising results. One such evaluation found that the BASICS intervention had an impact on various drinking behaviors, such as drinking quantity and perception of drinking consequences, as much as four years after program completion. Follow-up assessments over a two-year period showed significant reductions in both drinking rates and harmful consequences for students who received the intervention. Program impacts did not vary by gender, parental history of alcoholism, conduct disorder history, or student residence type.
Students often conform to patterns of heavy drinking they see as acceptable while holding false beliefs about actual alcohol-use norms or alcohol’s effects. BASICS is designed to help students make better alcohol-use decisions. The program’s style is not confrontational or judgmental, and it aims to:
- Reduce the adverse effects of alcohol consumption
- Promote reduced drinking
- Promote healthier choices among young adults
- Provide important information and coping skills for risk reduction.
The University of Oregon Counseling & Testing Center offers three levels of substance abuse intervention through the BASICS Program for students mandated to participate by the Office of Student Conduct.
BASICS 1 is comprised of an online assessment, a 2-hour class, and an individualized follow-up consisting of a follow-up survey and personal email to the student, if indicated. Fee $50
BASICS 2 is comprised of an online assessment and 2 one-hour individual sessions with either a Certified Alcohol & Drug Counselor (CADC) or a psychology doctoral student supervised by CADC. Fee $100
BASICS 3 is comprised of an online assessment and four one-hour individual sessions with an Alcohol & Other Drug specialist. The first session consists of an in depth AOD assessment and the following three sessions the clinician, using motivational interviewing techniques, provides more in depth interventions to address the student's alcohol and drug use. Fee $150
Before the first interview, the student receives a self-report questionnaire to complete. From the questionnaire and the first interview, information is gathered about the student’s alcohol consumption pattern, personal beliefs about alcohol, understanding of social alcohol norms, and family history. We utilize the six-dimension American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) assessment model.
The second interview, which occurs approximately one week after the initial interview, provides the student with personalized feedback on myths about alcohol’s effects, facts on alcohol norms, ways to reduce future risks associated with alcohol use, and a menu of options to assist in making changes. This dialogue includes, but is not limited to, feedback on drinking, BAC, calories, comparisons with other drinkers, norms, personal risks, tolerance level, and moderation tips. Students work with treatment providers to develop personal goals to reduce risks.
By utilizing mental health professionals, we are able to identify and address mood and relationship concerns, cultural considerations, and family context.
As a harm reduction approach, BASICS explores students’ motivation to reduce risky behaviors. It can be implemented in a variety of settings, including university health and mental health centers, residential units, and administrative offices. Students can be identified through routine screening or through referral from medical, housing, or disciplinary services.
BASICS has been evaluated and found to be effective with non-treatment-seeking students in large, traditional university settings but may be tailored for use with young adults in other settings. Because of its demonstrated effectiveness, it has been identified as a Model Program by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. BASICS was developed with the support of research grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to Dr. G. Alan Marlatt at the University of Washington.
For more about BASICS, see Linda Dimeff et al. Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS): A Harm Reduction Approach. NY: Guilford, 1999.