INSIDE Chico State
0 August 29, 2002
Volume 33 Number 1
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico







Briefly Noted




Drinking Declines

Survey shows slight but encouraging trend

Survey results from spring 2002 suggest a trend toward less use of alcohol and drugs by students at California State University, Chico, which could be attributable to a comprehensive anti-abuse campaign on campus.

Since 1989, CSU, Chico has administered the CORE Institute's Drug and Alcohol Survey to students in classes. The survey is used on approximately 130 two-year and four-year college campuses nationwide. At CSU, Chico, 1,250 students were randomly surveyed this year.

When asked if they had consumed any alcohol in the past 30 days, 82 percent of CSU, Chico students surveyed in spring 2002 said yes, down 3 percent from 2000. Marijuana use over the 30-day period declined from 37 to 36 percent, and tobacco use declined from 37 to 33 percent.

Among freshmen, who historically report higher use of alcohol and drugs than older students, alcohol use declined from 82 to 76 percent, marijuana use remained the same at 49 percent, and tobacco use declined from 47 to 37 percent over the 30-day period.

Other survey results at CSU, Chico also show a slight to moderate reduction in drug and alcohol use. Comparing 2000 and 2002 findings:

  • The median number of drinks consumed per week declined from five to four.
  • Student consumption of five or more drinks at a sitting at least once in the previous two weeks -- often termed "binge drinking" -- declined from 59 to 56 percent.
  • Students who had consumed alcohol in the past year declined from 93 to 90 percent.
  • Student use of marijuana in the past year declined from 55 to 52 percent.
  • Student use of an illegal drug other than marijuana in the past year declined from 27 to 24 percent.

"Across the board, these survey results point to slightly less use and abuse of drugs and alcohol at Chico," said Shauna Quinn, director of CSU, Chico's Campus Alcohol and Drug Education Center (CADEC). "While the numbers remain unacceptably high, we are very encouraged. We believe our efforts are paying off."

CADEC's activities include hosting alcohol-free events on campus, training peer educators, holding classes for violators of campus alcohol policies, providing transportation for inebriated students, and mailing birthday cards with words of advice to students turning 21 years of age. CADEC also has assisted with increased enforcement of no-drinking rules in residence halls and improved coordination with the local community.

While CSU, Chico has long been a leader in drug and alcohol education, it is currently in the middle of an innovative two-year program to reduce alcohol abuse. The program is funded by a $276,590 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The university was one of 14 campuses nationwide last year to receive a federal anti-alcohol abuse grant.

Advertisements, posters, e-mails, and publications are being distributed to students, relaying accurate facts about how much students drink and how students overestimate how much their peers drink. The education program is based on social norming theory, which predicts that students will tend to drink to the level they believe their peers drink.

At CSU, Chico, as at many campuses nationwide, students overestimate the amount of drinking among their peers and, therefore, orient their drinking to a false standard. Social norming campaigns have been found to be the single most effective method to diminish alcohol abuse at a number of other campuses in recent years.

In a supplemental questionnaire to the CORE survey the past two years, CSU, Chico students have been asked to estimate how much other students drank. From 2001 to 2002, the number of drinks students guessed their peers consumed at their last social occasion declined from six to five. Over that same period, the number of drinks students said they themselves drank declined from five to four.

"We believe overall drinking will decline as the gap between perception and reality narrows," said Walt Schafer, professor of sociology and special assistant for alcohol issues to CSU, Chico President Manuel Esteban. "We have a lot of work yet to do, but these new survey data suggest the social norming campaign is being effective."

While national results from the 2002 CORE survey are not in, CSU, Chico traditionally records higher levels of alcohol use than the national average. In 2000, the national average for students reporting binge drinking in the previous two weeks was 47 percent, compared with 56 percent at CSU, Chico. Of the CSU, Chico students surveyed, 52 percent were female, and 61 percent were between 18 and 22 years of age.

Joe Wills

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