Sunday, October 22, 2017

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The program not only significantly reduces heavy drinking behaviors, it also incorporates strong prevention strategies for low risk and non-drinkers who might already choose water over wine. The program not only significantly reduces heavy drinking behaviors, it also incorporates strong prevention strategies for low risk and non-drinkers who might already choose water over wine.
 


Drink of Choice

eCHECKUP TO GO, created by SDSU psychologists, has been recommended by the NIAAA as one of the most effective, low-cost strategies to curb alcohol abuse on college campuses worldwide.
By Natalia Elko
 

College drinking, whether casual or to excess, is often seen as a harmless rite of passage. The truth is alcohol can cause tremendous harm to students affecting their health, safety and ability to be successful.

For many students, just receiving education about the effects of drinking alcohol does not resonate. Why? Because general statistics and estimates don’t necessarily ring true for every person. To combat this, San Diego State University psychologists including Jen Rikard and Leslie Wilson designed eCHECKUP TO GO, a program that questions students on their drinking patterns and in turn, provides them with personalized feedback on negative consequences, risk factors and campus specific resources.

The online program is a model for success and was recently recommended by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as part of its “college alcohol intervention matrix” — or CollegeAIM — a user-friendly matrix that assists universities in selecting the best alcohol intervention strategies to address harmful and underage drinking. The NIAAA has provided the matrix information to every college president in the country with the hope that campuses will use it to assess the most effective prevention plans available.

 eCHECKUP TO GO was cited as one of the most cost effective and research supported tools available to colleges and universities.

"The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is behind much of our scientific understanding of alcohol abuse and alcoholism, and NIH funds most of the research on this topic. When NIAAA brings together a group of experts to go through the literature, they have access to the best minds on this topic,” said James Lange, director of SDSU Health Promotion and an internationally recognized researcher in the Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) abuse field.

"eCHECKUP TO GO has been implemented on a number of campuses across the country, some of which have done independent studies on its success and have published their results. The program has been put through various trials of scientific techniques and it consistently shows reductions in alcohol use. The positive result in numerous trials is one of the reasons why it was selected and recommended by the NIAAA.”

Success is in the numbers

Based in theory and research, eCHECKUP TO GO is self-guided, asking students for information about their use of alcohol, expectancies about alcohol, and perceptions of how others drink.  The tool provides campus-specific feedback and peer comparisons within the context of the student’s values and goals. It takes 20 to 30 minutes and answers are completely confidential.

"Ambivalence about change is always present in students; eCHECKUP TO GO helps them clarify and resolve their ambivalence — this results in an increase in their ability to make the changes they have identified as important to them,” Wilson said.

This personal feedback works.

"Evaluation of the data from the program has shown that change is happening. Students who have received feedback have reduced their risky use of alcohol and decreased the negative consequences that result from drinking,” Rikard added.

The program received the highest possible rating for research effectiveness by the NIAAA. To be included in the CollegeAIM matrix, 60 interventions were reviewed. The eCHECKUP TO GO program was cited as one of the most cost effective and research supported tools available to colleges and universities. It was given one of the highest ratings for number of studies conducted on its effectiveness and was named as one of the least expensive — costing less than $1,000 for an annual unlimited, customized subscription for a university.

Wilson and Rikard said the program has shown significant reductions in alcohol use in students who complete it. Users are encouraged to do personal “check-ups” to track changes in use and risk behavior.

Culture Shock

Designed in 2000, eCHECKUP TO GO has been implemented in more than 600 universities and colleges in 49 states and in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany and Ireland.

Since 2007, all new SDSU students are required to complete the program during their first semester or they are unable to register for second-semester classes. Many other universities who use the program have come to require this as well.

Rikard, who is also the director of SDSU’s Counseling & Psychological Services, said one of the most impactful aspects of the program is how it affects change through peer comparisons.

“Students often believe their drinking patterns are in the norm,” Rikard said. “But when the program corrects their misperception of the norm — when students realize that they drink maybe 25 or even 50 percent more than their peers — they experience discrepancy and make a change.”

The program has not only shown to significantly reduce heavy drinking behaviors, it also incorporates strong prevention strategies for low risk and non-drinkers who might already choose water over wine.

Affecting Change

The revenue raised by licensing eCHECKUP TO GO helps support the research and continued development of the platform as well as programs in SDSU Counseling and Psychological Services, Student Affairs and the SDSU Research Foundation.

The eCHECKUP TO GO program has also been implemented in high schools, local and regional communities, health organizations, the military and corporations.

The program has expanded from a focus on alcohol to also include unique programs for marijuana, tobacco and sexual violence. Visit the eCHECKUP TO GO web site for more information.