In-House Discussion of Alcohol Risks Featured in New Prevention Program

Next year, all fraternities hosting events with alcohol will be required to put three-fourths of their members through a new alcohol education program. The program, a 90-minute talk held in each fraternity’s house, is designed to get students talking about drinking.

A trained student moderator leads the in-house discussion about the risks of alcohol in the new Establishing Norms Through Interactive Community Education program, which was created and piloted last year by the MIT Office for Community Development and Substance Abuse Center.

The new program will run in conjunction with PartySafe, an existing seminar aimed at reducing alcohol-related risks during parties, according to David J. Hutchings ’10, Interfraternity Council risk manager.

Two-thirds of a fraternity’s members needed to take part in PartySafe in the past if the fraternity wanted to hold events serving alcohol. Now, in addition, three-quarters of a fraternity’s members must have completed the new ENTICE program every two years.

By leading discussions within individual chapters, the new program will help with “internal issues caused by alcohol and other drugs in their respective chapters,” Hutchings said.

PartySafe will be compressed to 90 minutes from its current 3–4 hours, so that PartySafe and the new program will together take about the same amount of time to complete, Hutchings said.

The new program begins with a survey that students in the living group take online prior to the discussion. Then, students trained by the CDSA mediate a discussion about statistics on alcohol use.

Students have responded positively to the new program’s pilot. Eighty-one percent of students rated ENTICE as “Effective” or “Very Effective” in “addressing community alcohol issues,” according to a report authored by MIT’s Community Development and Substance Abuse Center.

According to the report, the new program was influenced by MIT’s existing Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students program, which serves to provide one-on-one counseling for individual heavy drinkers.

The report suggests that where the BASICS program aims to reduce risky behaviors in individual heavy drinkers, the new program will aim to reduce risky behaviors in groups of high-risk drinkers.

In a study, the BASICS program seemed to reduce the likelihood that heavy drinkers would continue in their ways, according to the report.

A survey measured the effectiveness of BASICS’s online feedback about an individual’s drinking habits and one-on-one interviews with that individual in reducing heavy episodic drinking. In the study, heavy episodic drinking was defined as a minimum of four drinks for women and five drinks for men consumed in one sitting three or more times in the last two weeks.

The results of the study show that members of the control group, who received no interview or online feedback, decreased heavy episodic drinking by 5 percent. For groups that received only online feedback, but no interview, incidence of heavy episodic drinking decreased by 12 percent. Heavy episodic drinking in the group that participated fully in the BASICS program by receiving both interviews and on-line feedback, was reduced by 21 percent.

The report includes some quotes from students who participated in the new ENTICE program. One stated, “I think my house as a whole has been more open about talking about alcohol issues — I think the program gave us a safe and open forum to talk about the issues we all know are out there and exist.”

According to Kimmel Yeager, assistant dean of CDSA, the CDSA is considering extending the new program to include dormitories and athletic groups on campus next year.