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Workbook for Changing College Student Drinking Habits

This workbook is based on research protocols tested in Project TrEAT (NIH#AA 08512).

Initial Visit


This workbook will guide the discussion between you and your health provider. It describes 6 steps to help you change your health behavior. While you will have the opportunity to talk about many health topics, the workbook focuses on alcohol use. Your physician or nurse will talk with you about each of the steps

Step 1: Summarizing Current Health Habits

Step 2: Types of Drinkers

There are five different types of college drinkers. We define them by levels of alcohol consumption and problems related to drinking:

Where would you place yourself on this chart?

Pie chart diagramming different types of student drinkers [D]

Step 3: Reasons to Quit or Cut Down on Drinking

Think of reasons why you might want to quit or cut down on your drinking. Here are ideas other students have had. Mark any box that describes why you would want to change your drinking habits.

Can you think of any other reasons why you might want to quit or cut down your drinking?

1. _________________________________________________
2. _________________________________________________
3. _________________________________________________

Step 4: How Much Should I Drink

This step will help you to decide on a drinking limit for yourself for a particular period of time. Talk with your primary care provider so you both agree on a reasonable goal.

As you develop this drinking limit agreement, or contract, answer the following questions:

As you talk about this drinking limit, keep in mind the amount of alcohol that counts as a standard drink. The picture below explains a standard drink.

12 oz. of beer or cooler 8-9 oz. of malt liquor
8.5 oz. shown in a 12-oz. glass that, if full, would hold about 1.5 standard drinks of malt liquor
5 oz. of table wine 1.5 oz. of brandy
(a single jigger)
1.5 oz. of spirits
(a single jigger of 80-proof gin, vodka, whiskey, etc.) Shown straight and in a highball glass with ice to show level before adding mixer
An image of a  12 oz. can of beer or wine cooler.
12 oz.
An image of an 8.5 oz. glass.
8.5 oz
An image of a 5 oz. glass.
5 oz.
An image of a 1.5 oz. brandy glass.
1.5 oz.
An image of 1.5 oz. highball glass.
1.5 oz.
Note:  People buy many of these drinks in containers that hold multiple standard drinks. For example, malt liquor is often sold in 16-, 22-, or 40 oz. containers that hold between two and five standard drinks, and table wine is typically sold in 25 oz (750 ml.) bottles that hold five standard drinks.

We will use two tools to help you change your drinking practices:

Drinking Limit Agreement

This agreement should clearly state your drinking limit and when to return for a follow-up visit with your primary care provider.

Fill out this Drinking Limit Agreement, or contract, with your primary care provider. A reasonable goal for some students is abstinence—not drinking any alcohol.

Drinking Diary Cards

These cards are a way of keeping track of how much, and when, you drink. Use one card per week. Each day, record the number of drinks you consume. At the end of the week, add up the total number of drinks you consumed during the week. You and your health care provider will review these cards at your follow-up visit.

Keep a record of what you drink over the next 7 days

Beer/Ale Malt Liquor

Spirits Hard Liquor


Wine Cooler

Liqueur or Sherry

Weeks TOTAL: ___________

First Visit Summary

We've covered a great deal of information. Changing your lifestyle, especially your drinking patterns, can be a challenge.

Before your next visit, please do the following:

Remember that you are changing your behavior and it can be hard work. It becomes easier with time.

Image of a person in a liquor bottle

Second Visit

Thank you for coming today. Changing your lifestyle, including your drinking patterns, can be difficult. The purpose of this follow-up visit is to talk about the successes and difficulties you have had since your previous visit. We will cover the following topics:

  • Review of your alcohol use since the previous visit.
  • Step 5: Risky situations.
  • Step 6: Ways to cope with risky situations.
Image of two people in a wine glass

Let's begin . . .

Reviewing Your Alcohol Use and Drinking Goal

You and your health care provider will begin by talking about how you have been doing since your last visit. If you kept track of your alcohol use on the drinking diary cards, please review them together.

If you didn't complete the diary cards, please go back to page 7 and complete them now for the previous two weeks.

Drinking Limit Agreement

Your drinking limit goal at your last visit was:

From a review of your diary cards, were you able to meet this goal?

Whether you were able to stick to your drinking limit or not, it is likely that you encountered some difficult situations. The next steps focus on some of these situations.

Step 5: Identify Risky Situations

Your desire to drink may change according to your mood, the people you are with or if you are alone, and the availability of alcohol. Think about when and where you drink. Try to identify situations that make you want to drink.

The following list may help you remember situations or moods that make you want to drink. Please check the boxes that apply to you...

Identify the three situations or moods when you are most likely to be tempted to drink. Write them below:

1. _________________________________________________
2. _________________________________________________
3. _________________________________________________

Step 6: How to Handle Risky Situations

In certain situations, especially if you are having a bad day, you will find that you are tempted to drink. It is important to figure out ahead of time how to make sure you will not drink when you are tempted. Here are some tips from other students about ways to cope without drinking when life gets you down.

Some of the ideas may not work for you, but maybe you can think of other ideas that might work well. If so, write them down here.



Any lifestyle change is challenging. When you start to see progress, reward yourself. Rewards can help to balance the feeling that you're depriving yourself of something. In fact, what you're gaining is important to you, your family, your studies, and your friends.

Can you think of a way in which you can reward yourself for drinking less? Just DON'T use an alcoholic drink as a reward!

I'm going to reward myself by:


A great deal of information has been covered in this guide and during your visits.

  • Remind yourself that changing behavior can be difficult and that this is normal.
  • Remember to reward yourself for successes.
  • And when things don't work as well... Don't Give Up!
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Historical document
Last reviewed: 9/23/2005

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