Do drinking motives distinguish extreme drinking college students from their peers?

Helene R. White, Kristen G. Anderson, Anne E. Ray, Eun Young Mun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Objective: The literature highlights the need to move beyond the traditional heavy episodic ("binge") drinking criteria when trying to identify at-risk college drinkers. Thus, recent attention has focused on more extreme levels of drinking. This study examines whether drinking motives can distinguish college student extreme drinkers from lighter drinkers. Method: We used data from 3518 college student current drinkers (63.4% women) who participated in eight different studies at five different college campuses across the United States; a subsample of these students was followed up at 6 months post-baseline. At baseline and follow-up, drinkers were divided into three groups: nonbinge drinkers (< 4 drinks for women and 5 for men on their maximum drinking occasion), binge drinkers (4-7 drinks for women; 5-9 for men), and extreme drinkers (8+ for women and 10+ for men). Results: At baseline, extreme drinkers, compared to nonbinge and binge drinkers, reported greater social, enhancement, and coping motives, as well as greater quantity and frequency of drinking per week and more alcohol-related problems. Those who were not extreme drinkers at baseline and later became extreme drinkers at follow-up reported significantly greater increases in social and enhancement motives, compared to those who remained nonextreme drinkers. Those who were extreme drinkers at baseline and reduced their drinking 6 months later, compared to those who remained extreme drinkers, reported greater reductions in enhancement and coping motives. Conclusions: Focusing on drinking motives might be an efficacious target for preventive intervention programs to reduce extreme drinking among college students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-218
Number of pages6
JournalAddictive Behaviors
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Project INTEGRATE was supported by Award Number R01 AA019511 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIAAA or the National Institutes of Health. NIAAA had no role in the study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of the data, writing the manuscript, or the decision to submit the paper for publication.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Alcohol use
  • Binge drinking
  • College students
  • Drinking motives

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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