Dr. David Anderson, Professor Emeritus of Education and Human Development at George Mason University, is our guest for this episode. David, who serves as one of the authors of the College Alcohol Survey, talks about some of the positive changes he’s seen in campus prevention programs since the survey began in the late 1970s. He also discusses his concerns, and gives concise advice to anyone looking to help prevent drug abuse among college students.
Rich Lucey: Hi, this is Rich Lucey and the Drug Enforcement Administration's Community Outreach & Prevention Support Section, and I welcome you to this next episode of our podcast series Prevention Profiles Take Five.
I'm pleased to have as our guest today David Anderson, Professor Emeritus from George Mason University.
So before we get into our interview with David, let me tell you a little bit about him.
Dr. David Anderson is Professor Emeritus of Education & Human Development at George Mason University where he worked for over 28 years.
He served as Professor and Director of the Center for the Advancement of Public Health.
Prior to that David served as a college administrator at the Ohio State University, Radford University and Ohio University.
Over his four-decade career, he conducted hundreds of national, state and local projects while teaching graduate and undergraduate classes.
He is an active researcher with decades-long research on college drug and alcohol issues, high school youth and community efforts.
His work emphasizes practical applications for youth and parents, school and community leaders, program planners and policy makers.
And with that, David, welcome to the podcast.
Dr. David Anderson: Thank you, Rich.
I'm glad to be here, glad to be joining you for this helpful and important series.
Lucey: Thank you, and we're really pleased to have you, and I'm really excited about what we're going to talk about today so I'm going to just dive right into the first question which talks about really kind of the centerpiece of a lot of the research that you've done.
You and your colleagues at George Mason University have administered the College Alcohol Study every three years since 1979.
And the survey focuses around six areas, policies, prevention and education, support services, planning and collaboration, curriculum and training, and evaluation, all very important things when it comes to prevention.
So based on your experience over all that time, what is one of the primary areas of success that you've seen over the years?
Anderson: Yeah, that's a great question.
And I must say with this survey, it actually started with my colleague Angie Godalette when both of us were administrators at Radford University.
We started this in 1979, and all we wanted to do when we did this survey of 4-year schools around the country is to see what they were doing in those areas that you outlined.
What was the state of the art?
What sort of policies exist and sort of programs and services?
So we got some results, got a great response, and then we said three years later, hey, I wonder if things are different.
So we repeated it, and frankly, we've done it and I have done it with another colleague since in the last couple years 14 different times.
We call it the College Alcohol Survey.
We did add other drugs about 1985, but we didn't change the name because we added tobacco after that too.
But in answer to your question, areas of success, I think what we've found overall is that campuses do see the need and they demonstrate the need for skilled and dedicated and coordinated efforts in the context of a comprehensive framework.
So they've grown with various policies and procedures.
For example, alcohol was allowed, you know, on three-quarters of our campuses 40 years ago in 1979.
It's 81% today.
And again 14 surveys later it's 81%.
But so that doesn't show any change.
But what has changed is the circumstances under which alcohol can be served, like alternative beverages and food.
We had those requirements go up more recently than gone down, food requirement.
Advertising alcohol availability has gone down, meaning we can't say, you know, beer bust.
We've seen our efforts grow with campus coordinators going up.
We went from 14% to currently 87%.
Our surveys are up.
State efforts are up.
And most recently; I don't have long-term data because we only started gathering this in 2015, its organized recovery services.
This is really important.
We have almost half of our campuses having something organized, whether it's student group involvement or funding or faculty member involvement or social events.
So in answer to your question, primary areas of success, we see the need for comprehensive programs and we're doing a lot more things than we were 40 years ago across the board.
Again all the details, all the details are sitting on our website.
Someone can mine the data within about 200 different variables that I can't answer in one answer.
Up on our website, university@www.
Lucey: So thank you for that, and then I want to flip the question for you if you will.
It's kind of a subpart to this question.
So what stands out as a point of concern to you?
Anderson: Well, I guess the biggest area of concern is that while there's movement, it's very, very slow.
I mean we gathered data also for example on alcohol's involvement with campus behaviors, personal behaviors, academic problems.
Most of those have reduced.
I mean campus behaviors with physical injury and violent behavior, two-thirds of the campus incidents like that where alcohol involved 30 years ago and now it's only half.
So that sort of movement.
But what I'm concerned about if I were to put it not a nutshell is I'm concerned that campuses are not taking this whole thing seriously enough and allocating the necessary resources.
They're not assuming the leadership responsibility.
So while we are doing more and we do see a little bit of results, some of the reductions on some things, the overall funding for campus alcohol, drug and wellness programs is about $4 per student per year.
Half of that is alcohol/drugs.
$4 per student per year to make a difference?
Faculty engagement is virtually nil.
President or Chancellor support is at 3.
75 out of a 5.
The biannual review that's been in place for over 20 years, 25 years I think, is still at 54%.
That's just half of our campuses reporting that they do what is required to be done.
So in short, the answer to the question of what's an area of concern, we're not assuming the leadership responsibility.
We're not doing all that we could do.
I think many campuses are doing this check off something on a checklist.
That is not to berate the coordinators, the people on the frontline, the people whose heartfelt concern is there.
The skills are there.
It's a statement more about the policy makers, the budget keepers, a lot of the roadblocks to getting a fully comprehensive program implemented.
Lucey: Yeah, so one of the things I heard you say is while there is movement, it's very slow.
So I think it's important to clarify that.
This survey, and I've known this; it's been around for a long time so I've known about it from my time in New York to all my various iterations in federal government, that it does not measure use.
It looks at the process if you will, the components of prevention.
And so would you agree, because what I'm going to make is a statement about taking off on your there's movement but it's slow.
We know that behavior change takes time.
That's, that could be considered very slow.
But all of the process to put a comprehensive program in place does not necessarily need to be as slow as you're probably seeing it.
Anderson: That is correct.
So thank you for the clarification.
This is a report.
We did a sample 40 years ago.
We kept that same sample except for the schools that have closed.
So, so this is a sample one per school, one per college or university, again across the country, from an administrator or his or her designee.
So it's a statement of their effort.
And what I referenced just a moment ago was a statement about how they perceive alcohol's involvement with various campus problems tied into student behavior.
But going to your point here in terms of slow effort, you know, when we started this survey, The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and National Institute on Drug Abuse had just been founded that decade in the early 70's.
They were new.
Things were new.
So there's been a lot of growth.
There's been lots of resources.
We know that College Aim today with NIAAA and with your research at the DDA, we know a lot of what we can do and what we should be doing.
It does not have to be that slow, and it is awfully slow.
So thank you for that clarification.
Lucey: Yeah, so a quick logistical question I want to ask you about the survey before I move on to the second question.
Is the survey only of 4-year schools and if so, is that intentional?
Anderson: It was intentional.
It was intentional for the 4-year schools.
Another colleague and I did a different version in the early 90's to the mid-90's.
We did two iterations of a community college survey.
And the challenge with that is typically they didn't have dedicated resources.
For the most part they were not residential.
It was a hard to reach population.
We did find a lot of creativity there, but they didn't pay a whole lot of attention to alcohol and drug issues.
Lucey: So actually in doing the survey, perhaps I'm going to conjecture here that the reason for doing two separate ones is it's harder to mix the 2-year schools in with the 4-year schools in this type of survey.
Anderson: Absolutely, absolutely, yeah.
And we do some self-analyses based on size of school, public, private.
Anderson: But thank you.
Lucey: Okay, so I'm going to move off the survey and move on to second question here.
So you have written extensively, and I use that word bold, underlined, italicized.
You have written extensively on wellness issues, prevention strategies in higher education, and it seems to me like a recurring theme in many of the books you've written especially around drug abuse is this focus on talking about individual motivation for substance use.
From your perspective, why is it so important to focus on the reasons that college students use drugs or alcohol?
Anderson: Yeah, that's a great question, and it goes to the heart of what I have been doing and what I've been emphasizing.
And it actually predates my work with alcohol and drug issues.
When I was a first-time residence hall director, this was at Ohio State University.
So in 1973 virtually all the problems that crossed my desk were alcohol and drug related.
Virtually every problem there was an alcohol or drug cause.
And so I thought to myself as a budding scientist at that point, I thought to myself, I wonder why.
I wonder what's going on here.
Maybe we can go upstream.
So I actually initiated a program.
We filled a residence hall lounge.
Literally we called it All About Getting a Good Healthy Buzz.
And the intent was to get at some of the reasons or at least one of the reasons why we thought students used alcohol, alcohol at that point.
And so since that time when I do workshops, when I do trainings, when I'm teaching in the classroom, I'll ask students why they think themselves or others drink or drug.
And you can look at all the sorts of responses that they have, whether it's to be friendly, whether it's to celebrate, to gain confidence, to drown sorrows, to calm jitters or whatever, there's all sorts of reasons, but they cluster into four areas, social, cognitive, emotional and physical.
So if you think about that whole list of 30 or 40 things, it's generally clustering in those four areas.
And so in going to your question, why is it important to focus on this, it's to get at those underlying causes, to help sort some of those out and try to think of those from an individual perspective because if we don't treat those causes then it's kind of like a Band-aid, you know.
It's going to recur.
And I know that, I know there's many more causes than individual focus.
There's the environment or the socio-cultural, interpersonal and so forth.
And related to that, again some of that foundation of individual causes, is demand.
You think about supply and demand.
And all too often we hear, you know, let's dry up the supply.
Let's do this or that to make it so that things aren't available.
Well, we also need to deal with the demand side.
I remember talking with a federal official, and I said I'm getting ready to do a talk and I want to be innovative.
I want to be cutting edge.
Tell me something I don't know.
Tell me something I am not going to read in the newspapers or the journals.
And his response was, well, there's laboratories abroad that are making drugs to try to keep up with the appetite of the American population.
That speaks to the demand side.
And so in going to the question, why the focus on reasons students use drugs or alcohol, it helps us get at the root causes.
It helps us redirect our thinking about what we can do about it, ways we can shape the environment, work on interpersonal skills, help to change the norms.
I mean we've seen that with bystander intervention, helping to change the norms of what's acceptable when we see something.
And then the last piece I would offer on this is it has some base validity that it works.
I was honored to be part of a think tank about alcohol and drug use among young adults.
This was at the University of Notre Dame about 25 years ago.
And out of that some vision groups and some ideas came about why people were using alcohol and other drugs.
And seven themes emerged.
Those became the foundation of a book that I co-edited called "Charting Your Course: A Lifelong Guide to Health and Compassion".
And out of that came a federally funded grant, U.S. Department of Education called Healthy Expectations.
Out of that came something called Compass.
We've revamped it with those seven themes but created in a way that students would resonate.
The seven themes by the way, if addressed according to the think tank, would reduce the demand for alcohol and other drugs.
These themes were optimism, values, self-care, relationship health, community health, nature and service.
And all that got more into an initiative.
It got a model program award from U.S. Department of Education, and this is all at compass.
So again those three reasons, it helps us look at root causes, it helps us redirect our thinking about what we can do about it, and it has some base validity that it works.
And I didn't cite the research behind that but when we were implementing Compass, we found that students' use, first-year students' use of alcohol and drugs actually went down.
And that happened to be in a naturalistic design [inaudible 15:21].
There was no alcohol and drug education programming on that campus because of a gap in personnel.
Lucey: So you took me an immediate trip down memory lane because I too was at that think tank at Notre Dame because I was working in New York at the time, and I totally remember the two or three days of a lot of small group work and large group report out discussions on those seven themes.
So thanks for that.
You know, the thing I wrote down that I circled and underlined was this issue of root causes.
And for me basically what that says to me is we have to stop dealing superficially with, with the issues that are going on among our nation's college students.
You've named at the beginning of your response four, five, six of the more typical responses that students will give for why they use.
But you know, you have to delve a little deeper with each of those reasons to keep saying why, why, why.
Anderson: Exactly, exactly.
And yeah, so why and then why did you make that choice about alcohol or drugs?
Anderson: Why did you make that choice?
You know, why did you choose that to relieve your stress?
Do you know other stress coping skills?
Why did you choose that substance, alcohol or drugs, whatever it is, to numb your emotions or to be liked or to enjoy yourself or to loosen up or to be more creative?
Are there other ways that may be, that will help you, a little more legal, a little safer?
I think we know the answer.
The answer is yes.
And again those seven themes that I highlight are from optimism up through service bubbled up from the audience.
We didn't come into the structure.
It was a think tank, and as you recall, it all bubbled naturally.
Well, you certainly give people a lot to think about because again it's delving deep into the reasons why, not just a surface reason.
So I'm going to move on to our third question which I find it very interesting to think about.
So you often challenge your readers to think about the legacy they want to leave behind.
And I don't think that has to mean end of career.
It could mean mid-career, at a place that you're leaving, whatever.
Why is it important?
Why do you challenge readers?
Why focus on legacy?
Anderson: I focus on legacy because I think it's an interesting thing to think about, and I know it's hard for our 18-year-olds, our traditional aged college students to think about.
But actually it goes back to again my years at Ohio State University.
As I mentioned earlier, I was a residence hall director.
I had 700 men and women in the residence hall, and this was 1974.
And we set up a wing of the building for 100 freshmen.
We called it the Career Planning Center.
And you're going, okay, but this is a talk about alcohol and drugs.
This is not about career planning.
But you'll see the linkage in a moment because we put the students in a required course.
We said you're going to sign up for this.
You're going to have to take this course with us.
And one of your first assignments is to write your resume as you want it to read four years from now.
And the typical response I got from students in a class was like, I can't write my resume as a senior.
I'm a first semester freshman.
Well, what do you want it to look like as a senior?
And think about what your step after college is.
Say you want to go into business and you want to show that you had student activities and leadership on campus.
You can't just create those leadership activities your senior year.
You've got to be thoughtful in your freshman year.
In other words, join a group or two or three.
Become a member.
Become a member of a committee in your sophomore year.
Maybe become a committee chair, and then maybe have a leadership commitment in your last year.
So the point is begin with the end in mind just like Stephen Covey said in "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People".
So the other thing as I worked with undergraduates I said, Think about someone memorable in your life.
Think about a grandparent.
Think about a parent, a teacher, a mentor, someone influential, and what do you remember about him or her?
What do you remember that's positive that you might want to replicate, and what do you remember that's negative that you might not want to replicate?
What do you remember?
And so you flip that now into, okay, if that's what you remember about them, do you think that that's what they wanted for their lives?
And now think about your life and what you want for your life and how do you want to be remembered?
And you are more likely to achieve the memory that you want if you're intentional about it than if you just kind of flounder into it.
Now just because I'm intentional about a certain outcome, a certain legacy, may not be that's what people are going to remember.
That's okay, but at least you gave it a best effort.
So, so how does that relate to drugs and alcohol?
Again I would start my classes and I would reinforce this in my undergraduate classes, my graduate classes and say, What sort of legacy do you want?
And now how do your decisions today and tomorrow about alcohol and other drugs help you to get to the legacy that you want?
And how do they get in the way?
How do your decisions about alcohol and drugs get in the way of you achieving your legacy?
So again that's the direct link, a little roundabout to get there, but to me legacy helps to focus us on our, our own purpose.
It helps us set our priorities.
Like if my priority is to get top grades or become a Rhodes Scholar or the dean's list or to the student leadership award or student leadership, how do I get there?
And how do my decisions about alcohol and others drugs help me to get there, and how do they get in the way?
Focusing on legacy is about desired outcomes.
It links to your own mission.
It helps you establish priorities.
It helps you to be reflective.
And I've been doing this work since literally 1975, and I'm still reflecting and still refining.
But it helps us organize our energies, our limited time in an organized and planned way.
And again I think when I've worked with professionals, helping them think about their legacies and then helping them to work with the people with whom they work about their ultimate legacies.
I think it just serves as an anchor for all of us, helps us keep us focused.
I'm really loving the challenge to college students, young adults.
So many, and adults do this too; I'm not saying that we don't.
But so many times we focus on living in the here and now.
And I think that's especially true of youth and young adults.
They're not thinking long term.
They're not thinking 10, 15, 20 years from now.
But to just try and challenge them to begin thinking about what difference do you want to make in this world.
What is it you want to achieve?
And then as you said, you add alcohol and other drugs into that mix.
How is that going to affect what it is you want to achieve?
Anderson: Mm-hmm, and we have the beauty, particularly on our college campuses, of having those conversations.
Lucey: Yeah, that's excellent.
Anderson: It's powerful.
Lucey: So I'm going to now switch gears again, move off of legacy and talk about leadership for a bit here because in a couple of your most recent books you discuss perspectives that are held by campus-based professionals working on drug abuse issues.
And a lot of these folks are leaders in their field.
These are professionals who range from practitioners and policy makers to thought leaders and researchers.
What are one or two insights that you consistently hear from these people?
Anderson: That's a marvelous question.
And my most recent book which is actually at the publisher now called "Leadership In Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention" is; yeah, here's people who have been working 30, 40 years in a professional role, again whether they're researchers or practitioners or doing treatment or prevention or policy.
But the biggest; two answers to your question.
One is there's a sense of regret pretty much across the board, and it's like, God, I wish I'd spoken up more.
God, I needed to be out there more.
And I asked them, you know, what's your legacy?
What legacy do you think you're going to have?
What are you accomplishments?
What are you most proud of?
How did you get there?
But going to your question, what do I consistently hear?
I wish I had spoken up more.
Let my voice.
I wish my voice had been louder and higher.
I wish I would've spoken up more often.
If not us, who?
We're the ones.
I'm the one who did such and such.
I'm the one who did such and such, they would say.
I did this.
And then they realize that I'm the knowledgeable one, and if I wasn't speaking up then who's going to speak up?
So while they did speak up, they wish they would have been more aggressive.
So that would've been, that's one thing.
That's one of the findings.
And the other finding was to constantly go to science.
Go to research.
Go to knowledge.
And this doesn't mean I have to go to the back of the book and look at the answers because in this field, so much is moving.
We know from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there are a whole series of publications called Kicks.
So we're constantly putting out new science.
There are researchers out there, the College Aim I mentioned earlier has been revised so we have an updated version.
So but their message is go to knowledge.
Go to science.
Go to the research.
Ground your work in that.
At the same time it's important to be innovative.
It's important to be creative.
Find things that we can do creatively.
But ground it in good science.
And that was a theme that not just came out of those interviews, but it also came as a foundation in the two-book series I did with, I called "Wellness Issues for Higher Education" where I contacted a bunch of specialists in different areas, whether it was sleep or stress or spirituality or physical activity, drugs and so forth.
And the assignment with them was tell the readers what the current science is, what the best practices are, what the emerging issues are, the controversies and ways that this can be applied on campus.
So again from the interviews that I've had, from the experiences, the interviews for the most recent book on "Leadership in Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention" to the wellness books, consistently with their research with the "Leadership in Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention" book and the two wellness issues books, both published by Rutledge, is that these professionals say it's important to go to science.
Go to research.
Get good knowledge.
They're also saying stay updated because knowledge evolves.
So get updated.
But that's the point.
So be more vocal and go to science.
Lucey: So the notes that I was writing, so first of all I never would have guessed that a sense of regret would've been a consistent thing that you heard.
But when you frame it in terms of the "I wish I had this", that I wish I had done that, that makes more; that does make sense to me.
And I do think that oftentimes, especially in our field, you know, I think especially in the prevention field we always want to do more.
And we always wish we could do more.
So I guess that does make sense to me.
But I have to say the second thing that you touched on, go to research, knowledge, science, so you know, my mentor who you know as well, Fran Harding.
She, if it was a mantra that she had for prevention professionals, it was to know your science.
Know your craft.
And you know, that's embedded in me at this point because I think that's what you're saying, that this insight is you have to; and it's not finite.
It continues to evolve.
Anderson: It does continue to evolve.
You know, and if I go back to when I started; again I started in 1975.
I started alcohol and drug work in '75 and [inaudible 28:34] and NIAAA were just founded a couple of years before that.
So we didn't have the language.
There were research papers, but it wasn't in a public, publicly disseminated way.
And look at the college audience, and so much that we have learned.
The science is so much there.
We don't have an excuse for not honoring the science.
There's a lot that we don't know, but there's a tremendous amount we do know.
The sad thing; I haven't cited this.
This is separate research.
But if you look around at the master's degree preparation programs in higher education and student affairs, none of them, of the hundreds of programs, none have a required course in alcohol and drugs much less wellness.
So these are all well intended people that aren't going out with good science about the whole range of wellness issues, the root causes, and then alcohol and drug issues.
So we have a long ways to go and a lot of opportunities ahead for that.
So again science is there.
So as I come up now to our closing question, it's going to resonate to an earlier question about making a difference and even legacy.
And I know this is a very hard question to try and come up with one piece of advice.
But what is it that, what's the piece of advice that you have for our listeners who want to make a difference in preventing drug abuse among college students?
Anderson: Yeah, that's a great question and it's a hard question.
And again the listeners can be from all walks of life.
They may be a campus alcohol-drug coordinator.
They may be a counselor.
They may be a faculty member.
They may be a parent.
They may be a student.
But I boil it down to one word.
And so when I think of that, I think for whomever the individual is that wants to make a difference, find a mentor or two or three or four.
He or she might have skill sets different than yours.
That would be a good thing.
So if you're in a practitioner role, find someone in research.
If you're in a research role, find someone on a clinical piece.
And so cut across traditional, feel good, comfortable personnel that you can partner with.
So don't just find; if you're a residence hall director, don't just find another residence hall director.
But find someone who's different so that someone that you can be mentored by and someone that you can mentor.
I want to think carefully about the next generation.
So it's important that we find people.
We find students.
[Inaudible 31:23] as you mentioned is a great one who started as a peer educator and came up through the ranks, and I'm sure will continue rising through the ranks.
And we can name some others.
But think about the next generation.
How do we help get people involved in this?
When I prepared the leadership book, so it may sound a little scary but my message in that book (again I hope it's out; it's due out late this summer) is anyone can be a leader.
You don't have to be the chairperson or the president of this organization or the governor.
But the point is people of all walks; they can be a committee member.
They can be a parent.
They can be a concerned individual in the community.
They can be on the campus.
They can be in the state or the nation.
We can all be; we can all take the leadership role.
We all know people involved with, harmfully with drugs or alcohol in our professional and our personal lives.
So the idea of mentor is find people you can partner with, that you can learn from, you can draw from.
Again people in the community, people on campus, off campus, and in different roles.
And then find people that you can be a mentor to that can follow along behind you.
I think that if I go back to the beginning of the podcast, with all the efforts that we have on our campuses, I frankly see some recession and some complacency, and I'm concerned about that.
So I hope to reenergize the next generation or the people who pick up on this podcast and some of the other podcasts in your series.
I see the lack of vocalization.
Again a lot of the professionals I've interviewed, whether it was regret or wish they had vocalized more or wish they had testified more before their local or state or national decision making groups.
I see the low commitment of powers that be.
Well, set priorities.
I see a lot of talk and not aggressive action.
But I do see committed leaders on the frontlines.
So you know, to help sustain them, to help them stay committed.
Where can they find good mentorship, good partnerships?
And how do we get more personnel involved and at higher levels?
I think that that's really important.
Again so I think the theme of mentor is the one piece of advice, particularly on our college campuses.
We are, we are institutions of higher education.
We're institutions of advanced learning.
To me it's not just our opportunity to make a difference, but it's our obligation.
Lucey: Well, that sounds; that's a very, very powerful way to end that.
I love the anchoring, the advice around mentorship, whether you are able to seek out a mentor and also be a mentor to someone else.
I think it's challenging, it's rewarding, it's a lot of different things, but as you've just indicated here, I do believe it's necessary, and I've certainly mentioned the value that I've had over my career of having a mentor.
Anderson: And it's hard work.
It's, all this is hard work.
The context, this is not easy.
Lucey: No, no.
Anderson: But the bottom line is where there's the will within our hearts; and again through mentorship and through partnerships and collaboration, where there's the will, there are the ways.
Anderson: We can do this.
We can make a difference.
We have made a difference.
We have a long ways to go.
Lucey: And I think that's a perfect way to end.
We have made great strides, and we still have strides to make.
Anderson: Absolutely, absolutely.
Lucey: So David, I want to thank you for joining us on the podcast.
You've given us and the listeners so much rich content to think about as they work on their programs and work on their professional efforts on campuses and in their communities.
So thank you for accepting our invitation to be on the podcast.
Well, thank you, Rich.
Thank you for this opportunity and thank the DEA for hosting this and hosting this whole series.
Again I hope through all of this it really helps to make a difference for all of us.
Lucey: Thank you.
It has been our pleasure.
And to our listeners, thanks again for tuning in to this episode of "Prevention Profiles: Take Five."
With that I'll say thanks for listening and have a great day.