Alcohol and Off-Campus Parties

The scientific literature on alcohol use, prevention, and intervention efforts with college students has grown since the first article about college student drinking was released in 1945 by Dr. Clements Collard Fry, in which Fry cautioned that a "state of intoxication" might be the primary purpose of some student gatherings.

By no means is this collection of recommended readings an exhaustive list of every possible article about college student drinking, but it is instead a collection of resources to understand (a) factors associated with off-campus parties and (b) the research on alcohol outcomes relevant to high-risk drinking that could be particularly relevant in an off-campus party.

An existing, peer-reviewed list of articles supporting science-based interventions already exists, and was updated at the end of 2019. For any scientific articles on evidence-based prevention, intervention, or policy strategies, visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s (NIAAA’s) College Alcohol Intervention Matrix (CollegeAIM) at

On the top tool bar, there are 6 options ("Overview," "Individual Strategies," "Environmental Strategies," "Worksheet," "FAQs," and "Additional Information"). Readers must first click on "Individual Strategies" or “Environmental Strategies," and, once open, click on a strategy of interest. For example:

strategy of interest

Once opened, this will bring readers to a description of the strategy. Then, if they click on references…

open reference

…it will bring them to a list of all scientific articles that were reviewed by NIAAA’s teams when strategies were evaluated and assessed, including new ones in their 2019 update. All titles that are highlighted can be clicked on will bring the reader to the actual, original source article:


Articles from the Safer California Universities study

A visit to NIAAA’s CollegeAIM will result in several opportunities to learn more about the Safer California Universities study, which can be generalized to other communities (complete with a toolkit) on a Safer Campuses and Communities website ( While this website provides and overview and can ultimately direct the reader toward a tool kit, the tool kit can be accessed here:

The tool kit description from the website explains:

  • The Safer Universities Program aims to reduce excessive drinking and intoxication at off-campus locations near the college, including parties at homes and apartments, as well as at nearby bars and restaurants.

  • It achieves this by enhancing enforcement of laws to encourage responsible hosting and service of alcohol in private and commercial settings.

  • This tool kit describes the components of the action plan and provides tips and materials that support implementation.

Articles supporting the Safer California Universities study are below:

Primary outcome study:

  • Saltz, R.F., Paschall, M.J., McGaffigan, R.P., & Nygard, P.M.O. (2010). Alcohol risk management in college settings: The safer California universities randomized trial. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 39, 491-499.

    The authors describe the Safer California Universities project which included numerous environmental interventions and successfully reduced incidence and likelihood of intoxication at off-campus parties and bars/restaurants.

Other papers (sorted chronologically):

  • Coulter, R.W.S., Marzell, M., Saltz, R., Stall, R., & Mair, C. (2016). Sexual-orientation differences in drinking patterns and use of drinking contexts among college students. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 160, 197-204.

    Describes variability in drinking frequency, quantity, and off-campus setting among students who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, and discusses implications for prevention efforts that consider sexual-orientation differences in alcohol use and drinking contexts.

  • Marzell, M. Bavarian, N., Paschall, M.J., Mair, C., Saltz, R.F. (2015). Party characteristics, drinking settings, and college students’ risk of intoxication: A multi-campus study. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 36, 247-258.

    Concluded that refusing to serve drinks to intoxicated partygoers and legal drinking age enforcement both decreased drinking at Greek and off-campus parties, and therefore encouraged promoting refusal skills related to serving intoxicated partygoers along with promoting/enforcing social host laws.

  • Paschall, M.J. & Saltz, R.F. (2007). Relationships between college settings and student alcohol use before, during, and after events: A multi-level study. Drug and Alcohol Review, 26, 635-644.

    Explored alcohol use before, during, and after various settings/events (including off-campus parties), and consider intervention opportunities.

Articles addressing off-campus parties (sorted chronologically)

  • Morrell, M. N., Reed, D. D., & Martinetti, M. P. (2020, March 19). The behavioral economics of the bottomless cup: The effects of alcohol cup price on consumption in college students. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology. Advance online publication.

    Looks at willingness to purchase refillable cups for off-campus party alcohol consumption, and suggests regulating or banning "all you can drink" alcohol specials.

  • Jakeman, R.C., McClure, T.M., & Silver, B.R. (2015). A closer look at party hosting behaviors within off-campus college settings. Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education, 59, 7-24.

    Studied party hosts and suggested that an increased focus on educating party hosts to become better bystanders could have an impact.

  • Jakeman, R.C., Silver, B.R., Molasso, W. (2014). Student experiences at off-campus parties: Results from a multicampus survey. Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education, 58, 64-85.

    The authors review themes/trends surrounding off-campus parties, describe off-campus party attendees, detail the nature of off-campus parties, discuss the relationship to oncampus policies, and review suggestions for prevention strategies.

  • Buettner, C.K. & Debies-Carl, J.S. (2012). The ties that bind: Bonding versus bridging social capital and college student party attendance. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 73, 604-612.

    Explains that off-campus parties serve as a means for students to build social networks and social capital, so prevention programs could explore ways to meet students’ needs to build social capital without exposing themselves (or neighbors) to harms of high-risk drinking.

  • Buettner, C.K., Khurana, A., & Slesnick, N. (2011). Drinking at college parties: Examining the influence of student host-status and party-location. Addictive Behaviors, 36, 13651368.

    Study showed more drinking and consequences by off-campus party hosts (compared to attendees) and make suggestions about targeting possible party-hosts in prevention efforts.

  • Buettner, C.K., Andrews, D.W., & Glassman, M. (2009). Development of a student engagement approach to alcohol prevention: The Pragmatics Project. Journal of American College Health, 58, 33-37.

    While no evaluation took place with measurable outcomes, established feasibility of a program piloted with 89 students to explore, generate, and propose implementation of existing evidence-based strategies to the issue of off-campus parties.

  • Singelton, R.A. (2007). Collegiate alcohol consumption and academic performance. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 68, 548-555.

    Looked at numerous variables, including off-campus parties, on academic outcomes

Articles addressing off-campus parties and risky sex behaviors

  • Mair, C., Ponicki, W.R., & Gruenewald, P.J. (2016). Reducing risky sex among college students: Prospects for context-specific interventions. AIDS and Behavior, 20, 109-118.

    Found more frequent drinking in residence halls, campus events, off-campus parties, and bars was associated with greater number of instances of unprotected sex, and suggest future interventions could be shaped to be delivered in or about specific contexts.

  • Bersamin, M.M., Paschall, M.J., Saltz, R.F., & Zamboanga, B.L. (2012). Young adults and casual sex: The relevance of college drinking settings. Journal of Sex Research, 49, 274281.

    The authors explore the association between various drinking settings and reports of having sex with a stranger, and suggest environmental, educational, and enforcementbased strategies to impacting and reducing risks.

    Note: This also uses data from Safer California Universities project

Original studies utilizing Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study dataset

Note: Dr. Wechsler is the researcher who essentially made “binge drinking” a household word, especially for those who address alcohol use on college campuses. These articles are more dated by now, but as the first research team to address numerous variables (including off-campus party exposure), it is important to include these in this list.

  • Harford, T.C., Wechsler, H.,& Muthen, B.O. (2003). Alcohol-related aggression and drinking at off-campus parties and bars: A national study of current drinkers in college. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 64, 704-711.

    Explored alcohol-related aggression (including perpetrators aggression or experiencing belligerent consequences from others) and relationship to drinking setting.

  • Harford, T.C., Wechsler, H., & Seibring, M. (2002). Attendance and alcohol use at parties and bars in college: A national survey of current drinkers. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 63, 726-733.

    Explored alcohol consumption as a function of drinking setting, including off-campus parties.

  • Wechsler, H., Kuo, M., Lee, H., & Dowdall, G.W. (2000). Environmental correlates of underage alcohol use and related problems of college students. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 19, 24-29.

    Considered variables associated with drinking by underage students (including off-campus parties) and suggests multiple environmental strategies to impact behavior.

Research on alcohol outcomes relevant to high-risk drinking that could be particularly relevant in an off-campus party setting: Recommended readings

These are some research “classics” that address effects of alcohol relevant to off-campus drinking and unwanted effects associated with college student drinking.


Tolerance typically refers to the instance in which it takes more of a particular substance for someone to show the expected effects. The ability to “hold one’s liquor” is often viewed by students in a positive way (or in a way that impacts status or reputation). From a health standpoint, it is one of the criteria for an alcohol use disorder, and can therefore be associated with addiction. Relevant to off-campus parties is when a person’s tolerance could instantly disappear by drinking in a new environment (i.e., their ability to “hold their liquor” could literally “fail” to follow them to a new environment, meaning the same amount they typically drink could affect them in a much more pronounced way). Shepard Siegel was involved in each of the articles that bring this phenomenon to life:

  • Siegel, S., & Ramos, B. M. C. (2002). Applying laboratory research: Drug anticipation and the treatment of drug addiction. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 10, 162-183.
  • Siegel, S. (2005). Drug tolerance, drug addiction, and drug anticipation. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 296-300.
  • Siegel, S. (2011). The Four-Loko effect. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6, 357-362.


Up until he passed away in 2011, Dr. Alan Marlatt helped advance the understanding of alcohol’s social effects among college students (and others) through his use of a balancedplacebo design. With his simulated tavern (the BARLAB), he showed that people who believe they have been drinking, even when getting alcohol-free drinks, nevertheless act more social, talkative, and outgoing; those who believe they are not drinking but actually receive alcohol do not act differently (and instead attribute the physical effects they feel to being tired, hot, or clumsy). This article celebrating Dr. Marlatt’s contributions is a great summary of alcohol expectancy research:

  • George, W.H., Gilmore, A.K., & Stappenbeck, C.A. (2012). Balanced-placebo design: Revolutionary impact on addictions research and theory. Addiction Research and Theory, 20, 186-203.

"Alcohol Myopia" – why alcohol impacts decision making

One of the top unwanted effects of alcohol described by students is saying or doing something they regret. Steele & Joseph’s classic study on “alcohol myopia” explains what it means for inhibitions to be lowered, and sheds light on why conversations with someone who is impaired might not go so well.

  • Steele, C.M. & Josephs, R.A. (1990). Alcohol myopia: Its prized and dangerous effects. American Psychologist, 45, 921-933.


Blackouts, or not remembering a part of a drinking episode, result when encoding from shortto long-term members gets affected by alcohol. Dr. Aaron White has been one of the prominent researchers who has worked with prevention specialists on college campuses, and his 2003 article explains what occurs during a blackout:

  • White, A.M. (2003). What happened? Alcohol, memory blackouts, and the brain. Alcohol Research and Health, 27, 186-196.

Protective Behavioral Strategies

For campuses or communities aiming to reduce harm, there are protective behavioral strategies (PBS) that can result in harm reduction and even a measure that can be used as part of pre/post evaluation. The PBS-20 expanded on the original PBS scale to look at factors associated with the reduction of serious harm.

  • Treloar, H., Martens, M. P., & McCarthy, D. M. (2015). The Protective Behavioral Strategies Scale-20: Improved content validity of the Serious Harm Reduction subscale. Psychological Assessment, 27, 340-346.

Consequences among college students

From the initial "Call to Action" Task Force report from NIAAA in 2002, Dr. Ralph Hingson has been the name in estimating impacts of alcohol use among college students. This article on the “burden” of alcohol use highlights why it is so essential to address this issue.

  • White, A. & Hingson, R. (2013). The burden of alcohol use: Excessive alcohol consumption and related consequences among college students. Alcohol Research, 35, 201-218.

The history of college student drinking research

This review, part of the 75 th anniversary of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, documents the evolution of college student drinking research and is a snapshot of milestones in this field.

  • Kilmer, J.R., Cronce, J.M., & Larimer, M.E. (2014). College student drinking research from the 1940s to the future: Where we have been and where we are going. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 75, Suppl 17, 26-35.