New Search

1. Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS): A Harm Reduction Approach

Dimeff, Linda A, Baer, John S, Kivlahan, Daniel R, Marlatt, G Alan. (University of Washington, Department of Psychology, Addictive Behaviors Research Center)

BASICS is designed to help students make better alcohol-use decisions. Students often conform to patterns of heavy drinking they see as acceptable while holding false beliefs about alcohol's effects or actual alcohol-use norms. The program's style is empathetic, not confrontational or judgmental, and 1) reduces alcohol consumption and its adverse consequences; 2) promotes healthier choices among young adults; and, 3) provides important information and coping skills for risk reduction.

BASICS is an alcohol skills training program (ASTP) that aims to reduce harmful consumption and associated problems in students who drink alcohol. The key elements underlying the ASTP approach include 1) the application of cognitive-behavioral self-management strategies (based on the relapse prevention model); 2) the use of motivational enhancement techniques; and, 3) the use of harm reduction principles.

As a harm reduction approach, BASICS aims to motivate students to reduce risky behaviors rather than focus on 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. There are two 50-minute interviews. 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 approximately one week after the initial interview, provides the student with personalized feedback on myths about alcohol’s effects, facts on alcohol norms, ways to reduce future risks associated with alcohol use, and a menu of options to assist in making changes. In some cases, BASICS may be the first step toward seeking additional services to initiate or maintain changes. Additional services can range in intensity from a single booster session of BASICS to more traditional outpatient or inpatient treatment.

BASICS has been designed as a flexible, affordable, user-friendly, and effective indicated prevention program to reduce hazardous drinking in college students. For maximal flexibility, each session is tailored to the client’s own risk factors and circumstances, as well as to the severity of the client’s abuse or dependence. Also, to minimize program cost, the intervention can be easily modified for implementation by a wide variety of care providers with ranges of clinical experience.

Program implementation requires the development of assessment and feedback tools tailored to the specific setting and population. The BASICS workbook provides sample tools and additional information and assistance can be obtained through consultation with the program developers. Several generic web-based forms for assessment and feedback are also available (e.g., (San Diego State University project)). The program is not designed for students who are alcohol dependent, but it can be used as part of a stepped-care approach for assessment, advice, and referral to specialty care. BASICS has been evaluated with non–treatment-seeking students in large, traditional university settings, but may be tailored for use with young adults in other settings such as the military.

The program aims to reduce alcohol consumption and its adverse consequences, to promote healthier choices among young adults, and to provide important information and coping skills for risk reduction.

Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students.

Dimeff LA, Baer JS, Kivlahan DR, Marlatt GA. New York: Guilford Press, 1999. Preview and purchase information:

Intervention Details:

Population studied:College students; Non-treatment-seeking young adults; Military and veterans
Drug studied:Alcohol problem drinking (not severe dependence)
Therapy format:Individual
Therapy type:Harm reduction; Brief Intervention; Cognitive-behavioral; Motivational enhancement; Social/Coping skills; Early intervention
Setting:University settings: health clinics, mental health centers, residential units, and administrative offices. Private office space is needed for confidential interviews. BASICS has been evaluated with non–treatment-seeking students in large, traditional university settings but may be tailored for use with young adults in other settings such as the military.

Training/Technical Assistance: Training is usually necessary to implement BASICS and depending on staff experience, it can be completed in one to two days. Trainees need interviewing skills and many paraprofessionals can effectively deliver the program. Training encompasses knowledge of alcohol use among college students and specific clinical techniques such as non-confrontational interviewing. The BASICS workbook, available through Guilford Press (see “Manual” above) provides the information and charts needed for conducting the interviews, and is designed as a workbook for those providing prevention, education, and treatment services to college students who drink alcohol. It is important for users of the manual to have a familiarity with basic counseling skills, though a great deal of knowledge about alcohol or extensive specialized training in addictions counseling is not needed.

The developers of BASICS can provide on-site and off-site training. For information about training, at ABRC, see


  • Recognized as a "Model Program" by SAMHSA, the highest of their three designated categories for EBPs

Supporting References:

  1. Denerin LL, Spear SE. Routine use of screening and brief itervention for college students in a university counseling center. J Psychoactive Drugs 2012;44(4):318-324
  2. Baer JS, Kivlahan DR, Blume AW, McKnight P, Marlatt GA. Brief intervention for heavy-drinking college students: Four-year follow-up and natural history. American Journal of Public Health 2001;91(8):1310-1316
  3. Larimer ME, Turner AP, Anderson BK, Fader JS, Kilmer JR, Palmer RS, Cronce JM. Evaluating a brief alcohol intervention with fraternities. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 2001; 62(3):370-380.
  4. Murphy JG, Duchnick JJ, Vuchinich RE, Davison JW, Karg RS, Olson AM, Smith AF, Coffey TT. Relative efficacy of a brief motivational intervention for college student drinkers. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors 2001; 15(4):373-379.
  5. Borsari B, Carey KB. Effects of a brief motivational intervention with college student drinkers. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 2000; 68(4):728-733
  6. Marlatt GA, Baer JS, Kivlahan DR, Dimeff LA, Larimer ME, Quigley LA, Somers JM, Williams E. Screening and brief intervention for high-risk college student drinkers: Results from a 2-year follow-up assessment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 1998; 66(4):604-615
New Search

Powered by DB/Text WebPublisher, from Inmagic WebPublisher PRO