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

54 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 - 1 Sep 2016


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


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