Lincoln Memorial University studies binge drinking

Published 11:40 am Friday, July 20, 2018

Approximately 40 percent of college students in the United States binge drink, according to a survey by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. This alarming stat sent researchers, including Lincoln Memorial University’s (LMU) Dr. Vinayak K. Nahar and Richard Kim, searching for predictors of responsible drinking or abstinence from binge drinking using a multitheory model approach.

The findings, published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, point to a model with a comprehensive set of supports to turn those behaviors around. Nahar, assistant professor of public health and one health at LMU-College of Veterinary Medicine, joined Dr. Manoi Sharma, professor of behavioral health at Jackson State University, and Dr. M. Allison Ford-Wade, professor of health promotion at the University of Mississippi, as primary investigators.

The term binge drinking has become a buzzword but is defined as a pattern of drinking that raises a person’s blood alcohol to 0.08 percent or above per 100g of blood. This equates to the consumption of four alcoholic drinks for women or five alcoholic drinks for men within a two-hour period.

For college students, binge drinking can have negative repercussions which may lead to missed lectures, poor academic performance, and can even lead to unsafe sex practices, altercations with the law, driving under the influence and suicide attempts. This study attempts to use the multi-theory model (MTM) of health behavior to predict the intention of binge drinkers to change their habits.

“In order to change from binge drinking to drinking responsibly or abstaining, students first must be convinced of the immediate advantages to their lives when it comes to health, relationships and academic performance,” said Nahar.

“‘Because I said so’ is not good enough anymore,” said Richard W. Kim, MS. “You have to give them a why.” Kim is a co-author on this study and a second-year osteopathic medical student at LMU-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Participants also indicated that confidence in their ability to change as well as a change in their physical environment by removing themselves from drinking situations would be necessary for them to curb their habits.

The results showed that to make a change, it mattered more what actions you took than what you believed. Students surveyed suggested keeping a diary or utilizing an app to help track drinking habits and monitor consumption, or adopting positive behaviors like exercise to help them avoid drinking due to emotions. Students also indicated that having a support network of friends and family would help them maintain responsible drinking habits.

Using the MTM model, the information gathered from this research will be used to design a precision intervention for physicians to counsel patients in family practice.

“Multi-theory model is a robust theoretical model that holds promise for explaining and understanding the intention to drink responsibly or abstain among college students who binge drink,” said Dr. Nahar. “We are working on developing and implementing future interventions based on this theoretical model.”

Some of these preventions may be as simple as educating college students about the risks of binge drinking with evidence based data. For example, according to the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, responsible drinking is defined as no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

Kim said, “Most college-age students don’t even know how many drinks they should drink to stay within a healthy range.”

The study also analyzed the participants’ willingness to initiate and sustain responsible drinking habits or abstinence. The study revealed that women were 38 percent more willing to make a change toward positive drinking habits than men, and 49 percent more willing to curb their habits for the long term.

Non-white college students were 41 percent more willing to initiate responsible drinking behaviors than whites and 96 percent more willing to sustain those habits.

“Overall this shows it is much easier to get people to take the first step to make a change, but sustaining those changes will take more thorough intervention and support,” said Dr. Nahar.