BASICS (Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention of College Students) is Effective

BASICS (Brief Alcohol Screening and intervention of College Students) is a preventive alcohol abuse intervention program for college students 18 to 24 years old. It is aimed at students who drink alcohol heavily and have either experienced or are at risk for alcohol-related problems such as poor class attendance, missed assignments, accidents, sexual assault, and violence.

Students often conform to patterns of heavy drinking they see as acceptable while holding false beliefs about actual alcohol-use norms or alcohol’s effects.

BASICS is designed to help students make better alcohol-use decisions. The program’s style is not confrontational or judgmental, and it:

  • Reduces the adverse effects of alcohol consumption
  • Promotes reduced drinking
  • Promotes healthier choices among young adults
  • Provides important information and coping skills for risk reduction. 

BASICS is conducted over the course of only two 50-minute interviews, and these brief, limited interventions prompt students to change their drinking patterns. 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.

As a harm reduction approach, BASICS motivates students to reduce risky behaviors. It can be implemented in a variety of settings, including university health and mental health centers, residential units, and administrative offices. Students can be identified through routine screening or through referral from medical, housing, or disciplinary services.

BASICS has been evaluated and found to be effective 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. Because of its demonstrated effectiveness, it  has been identified as a Model Program by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

BASICS was developed with the support of research grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to Dr. G. Alan Marlatt at the University of Washington.  


For more about BASICS, see Linda Dimeff et al. Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS): A Harm Reduction Approach. NY: Guilford, 1999.


  • Adapted from BASICS -- Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention of College Students. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of  Health and Human Services.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Center for Substance Abuse Prevention.

Filed Under: College Students