Level of Response to Alcohol as a Factor for Targeted Prevention in College Students

Jeanne E. Savage, Zoe Neale, Seung Bin Cho, Linda Hancock, Jelger A. Kalmijn, Tom L. Smith, Marc A. Schuckit, Kristen Kidd Donovan, Danielle M. Dick*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Heavy alcohol consumption and alcohol problems among college students are widespread and associated with negative outcomes for individuals and communities. Although current methods for prevention and intervention programming have some demonstrated efficacy, heavy drinking remains a problem. A previous pilot study and a recent large-scale evaluation (Schuckit et al., 2012, 2015) found that a tailored prevention program based on a risk factor for heavy drinking, low level of response (low LR) to alcohol, was more effective at reducing heavy drinking than a state-of-the-art (SOTA) standard prevention program for individuals with the low LR risk factor. Methods: This study enrolled 231 first-semester college freshmen with either high or low LR into the same level of response-based (LRB) or SOTA online prevention programs as in the previous reports (consisting of 4 weeks of video modules), as well as a group of matched controls not receiving alcohol prevention, and compared changes in alcohol use between these groups across a 6-month period. Results: Individuals in alcohol prevention programs had a greater reduction in maximum drinks per occasion and alcohol use disorder symptoms than controls. There was limited evidence for interactions between LR and prevention group in predicting change in alcohol use behaviors; only among participants with strict adherence to the program was there an interaction between LR and program in predicting maximum drinks per occasion. However, overall, low LR individuals showed greater decreases in drinking behaviors, especially risky behaviors (e.g., maximum drinks, frequency of heavy drinking) than high LR individuals. Conclusions: These results indicate that prevention programs, including brief and relatively inexpensive web-based programs, may be effective for persons at highest risk for heavier drinking, such as those with a low LR. Tailored programs may provide incremental benefits under some conditions. Long-term follow-ups and further investigations of tailored prevention programs based on other risk factors are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2215-2223
Number of pages9
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcohol
  • College Students
  • Level of Response
  • Prevention
  • Web-Based


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