Informational and educational strategies are the most commonly used prevention methods on college campuses. These individually-focused strategies are based on the assumption that students lack information about the dangers of high-risk alcohol and other drug use, and that increased knowledge will reduce high-risk behavior. As several well-designed studies have concluded, when used alone these informational and educational strategies are ineffective in reducing high-risk drinking and its consequences.
Educational strategies can, however, successfully contribute to a comprehensive environmental management approach to prevention. The challenge for prevention professionals is to identify the most effective ways to integrate informational research-based strategies into environmental prevention strategies.
Due to limited financial resources, campuses must seek out the most appropriate and cost-effective educational strategies. Educating students on true student norms around alcohol and other drug use, informing students about campus, local, and state policies, and publicizing their enforcement are all crucial elements of the environmental management approach. Prevention efforts should communicate norms and expectations about alcohol and other drug use to students, especially as policy and enforcement measures are increased.
Colleges and universities can also educate students about new research on the effects of alcohol. While traditional education efforts on the consequences of alcohol use should not be the primary focus of prevention efforts, providing students with new information, such as recent studies on alcohol’s negative effects on brain development and learning, serves both the academic mission of the school and increases student awareness of previously unknown consequences.
Although educational strategies that focus on informing students of the dangerous consequences of alcohol use have not been proven to be effective in isolation, education is an important part of comprehensive prevention efforts, and can serve to support other components of an environmental approach.