Students learn BASICS

By Marc Larocque

To believe the stereotypes of movies and television, getting trashed every weekend is business as usual for college students. But a group of graduate students want to make sure students know how these habits can affect their health.

A new program called BASICS, or Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students, is now available for Northeastern students to further their drug and alcohol abuse awareness, encouraging them to make their own responsible decisions. It involves two sessions with a BASICS interviewer, a registered nurse from health services and three online surveys.

Participants will compare their own alcohol and drug use to their fellow students here and at other colleges. Students will be able to get tips and make personalized strategies for safe drinking. They will even get paid for their time.

“There is already counseling services, but this is a little different,” said Sara Jefferson, a graduate student working on her masters degree in counseling and psychology. Jefferson works doing research for BASICS. “They will learn the myths about alcohol and drugs. It’s not a counseling thing or an abstinence thing,” Jefferson said.

BASICS is run through the Institute on Urban Health Research (IUHR) at Stearns Center.

During a BASICS interview, students get to speak with a counselor about their own drug and alcohol use and its mental and physical effects, as opposed to AlchoholEdu, an exclusively online program based on research by experts.

“There didn’t seem to be a unified strategy for addressing alcohol and drug use for students from a health perspective,” said Dr. Hortensia Amaro, director of IUHR. “Studies have shown that Northeastern students, especially the younger ones, come to college for the first time a long way from home and can get into problems with grades, health problems and risky sexual behaviors because of irresponsible alcohol use.”

The program started when Amaro wrote a grant to develop a program for college drinking awareness.

“Students get into binge drinking and have problems, so we applied and were awarded the grant,” Amaro said. “At times there have been problems with alcohol and drug use on campus. Some of the instances are related to the sports activities, students destroying things.”

By looking at their own behaviors and learning about usage, BASICS encourages students to be responsible. It also looks at frequency, how alcohol affects the body and how much students spend on alcohol and drugs.

“BASICS is a non-judgmental self-check for students,” Amaro said. “The biggest thing is that it is not like a lecture or an abstinence program. It’s just awareness.”

Amaro plans to have about 300-400 students go through BASICS before September, and said about 1,500 will participate in the study over three years.

Students will be working to develop educational material for students and staff and to promote BASICS through marketing. The student advisors will be treated to lunch and gift cards for their time, Amaro said. Students who participate will get $20 for each of the three surveys they do.

Despite these incentives, freshman human services major Jessica Blankenship said she doubts students will be enthusiastic.

“They had a hard enough time getting kids to complete the AlcoholEdu quizzes online, and those didn’t even require actually going out and doing anything like seeing nurses,” Blankenship said. “I don’t foresee many kids volunteering.”

Students can participate by contacting the IUHR by visiting

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