Friday classes may cut college boozing

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New research on college drinking suggests a last call for Thursday night bar-hopping. A study published this month by three researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia says scheduling early morning classes on Fridays could cut college-age drinking by almost a quarter.

“If you make it punishing for someone to drink, and one [way] is dragging them into the classroom at 8 a.m. on a Friday morning, then they’ll be less likely to drink,” said professor Kenneth J. Sher.

Mr. Sher said the findings are not “rocket science,” but he called them hard evidence on combating binge drinking in a field that largely has been anecdotal.

The study found that out of the student drinkers, 19 percent less would drink on “thirsty Thursdays” if they had Friday morning classes between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., as opposed to having the day off.

“It’s the only night that you can actually go out and experience the really cool bars instead of the dive bars in college towns if you’re not 21 yet,” said Boris Kozak, 21, a University of Maryland School of Business student who takes 8 a.m. classes.

Mr. Sher and fellow psychology professors Phillip K. Wood and Patricia C. Rutledge, who recently transferred to Allegheny College, tracked 3,341 undergraduates over four years. The study merged the academic schedules and transcripts of participants with paid Web-based surveys about personal drinking behavior.

While 66 percent of drinking male students who did not have Friday classes consumed a binge amount — equal to five or more drinks — the number dropped to 58 percent for those with a class before 10 a.m.

Mr. Wood said administrators from the University of Maryland and Penn State University have contacted him for further information.

The study’s authors and other researchers in the field said curbing alcohol abuse must be a multipronged strategy.

“If [students] know they want to party on Thursday nights, they’re not going to sign up for Friday classes,” said Erin Artigiani, deputy director for policy for the Center for Substance Abuse Research in Bethesda. The center is funded by the University of Maryland and makes policy recommendations to the Maryland and D.C. governments.

A 2005 study by the center said the availability of alcohol, marijuana and Adderall, a prescription drug for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, was a leading factor in drug abuse on college campuses.

The dissemination of accurate information about safe-drinking practices, such as advertisements in registrar booklets and postcards at local bars, is another way to decrease underage and binge drinking, Ms. Artigiani said.

Mr. Wood also said avoiding Friday classes is a “two-way street” because students want a three-day weekend and faculty sometimes reserve a day for research or business consultations. The study was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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