Are There Drinking Motives for College Students

Studies have shown that there are drinking motives for college students (Mohr, Armeli, Temple, Todd, Clark, & Carney, 2005).

Other studies have also shown multiple drinking motives such as social (you can loosen up and feel more confident), enhancement (it gives you a false sense of security and makes you think you can do anything better than anybody), conformity (you want to be part of the crowd), and coping ( it’s easier to just drown your sorrows in beer and liquor) (Martens, Rocha, Martin, & Serrao, 2008). (Berkowitz & Perkins, 1986) gave the following drinking motivations: to enhance sociability or social interaction, to escape negative emotions or to release otherwise unacceptable ones, or simply to get drunk.

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The diagnostic instruments used in Martens et al (2008) are: Drinking Motives Measure (DMM), a 20-item measure designed to assess four motives for alcohol use; Daily Drinking Questionnaire (Collins, Parks, & Marlatt, 1985) to assess participants’ use of alcohol; and Rutgers Alcohol Problem Index (RAPI: White & Labouvie, 1989) as a measure of problems experienced as a result of drinking alcohol. The Michigan Alcohol Screening Test (MAST) Selzer, (1971) reported in Berkowitz, and Perkins, (1986) is one of the most widely used measures for assessing alcohol abuse.

George Dowdall, author of College Drinking: Reframing a Social Problem (2009), states in an interview in Inside Higher Ed (2009) regarding his book, that college drinking, once viewed as a harmless rite of passage, and was reframed as the number one public health problem for students. An important question to determine if the majority of the population of college age persons is abusing alcohol is: do college students drink more than their non-student peers? The National

Monitoring the Future Survey (Johnston, O’Malley, & Bachman, 2000) reporting in (Hingson, Heeren, Zakocs, Kopstein, & Wechsler, 2001), stated that “of the 1, 440 full-time 2-and 4-year college students surveyed in 1999, 40% reported consuming five or more drinks on a single occasion at least once in the previous 2 weeks, a greater proportion than found among same age noncollege peers (35%) and high school seniors (31%). These surveys have determined that a large proportion of college students drink heavily; an even larger proportion than that of person of the same age not in college” (Hingson et al. , 2001, p. 36). The National Household Survey of Drug Abuse (NHSDDA: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) “surveyed 18-24 year old college students were more likely than the same age noncollege respondents to report drinking five or more drinks on at least one occasion in the past month and driving under the influence in the past year” (SAMHSA, 2000, p. 137). “A recent US study comparing 18-29 year-olds in the general population with college students, showed that monthly heavy drinking (5+drinks) was significantly more common in college students than in the general population sample (24% vs. 0%). A diagnosis of alcohol dependence among college students than among their non-students peers (15% vs. 12%)” (Kypri, Cronin, & Wright, 2005, p. 713). The results from these studies indicate that the entire population of college age persons is not engaging in excessive alcohol use and abuse, which is good news. The college students are definitely at risk as the drinking motives indicate, and are the target for assistance. Before we can understand the college student drinking problem, we need to understand their motivations to drink.

Understanding these motives is a key factor in prevention and reduction of alcohol use and abuse on college campuses (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 2007). It is all the more important to fully explore and research the drinking motivations of college students, doing so, we can present the best means of alcohol reduction in an effective and innovative way, to ensure quality health and well being for our future citizens.

The results from these studies will assist psychological counselors, educators, and parents in understanding the motives for college student drinking. It is imperative that we focus on this population as, the next step will be to develop strategies to help the students help themselves through reduction and/or prevention measures in battling alcohol use and abuse in college students.