Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention of College Students (BASICS)

An Evidence-Based Practice


BASICS--Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention of College Students: A Harm Reduction Approach--is a preventive intervention for college students 18 to 24 years old. It is aimed at students who drink alcohol heavily and have experienced or are at risk for alcohol-related problems such as poor class attendance, missed assignments, accidents, sexual assault, and violence. BASICS is conducted over the course of two 50-minute interviews. These brief, limited interventions prompt students to change their drinking patterns.

As a harm reduction approach, BASICS aims to motivate students to reduce risky behaviors instead of targeting a specific drinking goal such as abstinence or reduced drinking. Students can be identified through routine screening or through referral from medical, housing, or disciplinary services. Before or after the first interview, the student receives a self-report questionnaire to complete. From the questionnaire and the first interview, information is gathered about the student's alcohol consumption pattern, personal beliefs about alcohol, understanding of social alcohol norms, and family history. The second interview, which occurs about 2 weeks after the initial interview, provides the student with personalized feedback on his or her patterns of drinking, typical and peak blood alcohol concentration, comparison of drinking patterns with other college students of the same age and gender, and level of family history of alcohol problems. Moreover, the program challenges inaccurate alcohol norms and myths about alcohol's effects, highlights alcohol-related negative consequences, suggests ways to reduce future risks associated with alcohol use, and provides a menu of options to assist in making changes. Screening and referral for stepped-care treatment is also offered as needed.

Goal / Mission

The aims of the BASICS program are 1) to reduce alcohol consumption and its adverse consequences, 2) to promote healthier choices among young adults, and 3) to provide important information and coping skills for risk reduction.

Results / Accomplishments

BASICS has been evaluated with four randomized longitudinal designs. It appears that brief individual preventive interventions for high-risk college drinkers can achieve long-term benefits, even in the context of maturational trends. Most students who drink heavily as freshmen tend to report few negative consequences over time, as the reasons for drinking diminish or change. However, those who received BASICS reported fewer consequences and more rapid change. Students receiving a brief individual preventive intervention had significantly greater reductions in negative consequences that persisted over a 4-year period than their control-group counterparts. Individual change analyses suggest that for those receiving the brief intervention, dependence symptoms are more likely to decrease and less likely to increase. Regarding drinking frequency, neither the high-risk group nor the normative sample changed drastically over the 4 years. Normative comparison participants representing the general student body reported slight increases in drinking frequency over time, particularly at the 3-year follow-up when many students had reached 21 years of age, while drinking frequency declined minimally over the 4-year period among high-risk students.

About this Promising Practice

Primary Contact
George A. Parks, Ph.D., Director of Community Training and Program Dissemination
Addictive Behaviors Research Center
Department of Psychology
BOX 351629
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195-1629
Health / Substance Abuse
Education / Higher Education
Public Safety / Crime & Crime Prevention
University of Washington
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's Model Programs Guide (MPG)
Date of publication
Seattle, WA
For more details
Target Audience
Children, Teens