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Counseling helps

Stephen Kiehl (The Palm Beach Post) -- College students who get individual counseling about their drinking habits are able to substantially reduce the amount of alcohol they consume, according to a Florida Atlantic University study released Wednesday.

The study of 53 student athletes at FAU found those who got regular counseling sessions reduced their weekly number of drinks by more than a third, while those who got no counseling saw little change.

The study was conducted by Barry Gregory, who is in charge of alcohol and drug abuse programs at FAU. Gregory says traditional alcohol programs -- which urge abstinence and pound the message that drinking is bad -- don't work.

His idea: Help students figure out why they're drinking so much, and then help them find solutions to those problems. The students in his study were divided into three groups: one received three one-hour counseling sessions over six weeks, the second got two counseling sessions, and the third got none.

The study also found that students have an inflated perception of how much other students drink. That lures them into drinking more themselves. But that perception can change with education, Gregory said.

"Encouraging students to develop social and academic skills can be one of the most effective strategies to prevent the abuse of alcohol and other drugs," he said.

The students in the study will be tracked for a year to determine the counseling's long-term impact. Gregory is now trying to win a grant for a broad-based study of drinking attitudes and practices among Florida college students.

(c) 2001 The Palm Beach Post

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