SH101 takes a positive harm reduction approach that is centered in health promotion principles. (For an explanation of harm reduction, see below.) Our student-centered messaging is data-driven; it is based in research and evaluated best practices relating to behavioral science and health communication. Our coverage of alcohol and other substances acknowledges students’ motivations for using. It recognizes that most users do not suffer significant negative consequences from their use. It equips students with the knowledge, self-efficacy, and skills aimed at maintaining and/or increasing their potential for academic success, and reducing the risk of any substance use that might cause physical, emotional, or behavioral distress.

Our learning objectives include:

  • Increasing students’ awareness of the potential health, social, behavioral, and legal consequences of using alcohol and/or other substances.
  • Increasing students’ awareness of the true prevalence of alcohol and substance use among their peers, which is typically lower than they perceive.
  • Motivating students to invest in healthier approaches to addressing the goals they may associate with substance use (e.g. social confidence and stress management).
  • Increasing students’ awareness of alcohol and drug outcome expectancies. (For an explanation of outcome expectancies, see below.)
  • Framing the use of alcohol and/or other substances as an active choice that can be managed, rather than a default behavior, in students and their peers.
  • Providing students with personal, social, and environmental strategies for assessing and (if appropriate) taking action to change their relationship with any substance, and for facilitating and supporting their peers’ health-promoting choices.
  • Recognizing the risk factors for and signs of heavy drinking, intoxication, alcohol poisoning, addiction, and antisocial behaviors (including sexual assault) associated with the consumption of alcohol and/or other substances.
  • Empowering students to intervene as bystanders with the goal of minimizing the health and safety risks (including sexual assault, driving under the influence, and alcohol poisoning) associated with the consumption of alcohol and/or other substances.
  • More closely aligning students’ behaviors and goals at college (including how those are reflected online) with their expectations and plans for their future professional and family lives.

Examples of SH101 content:

Personal mixology: Your body, your life, your limits
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Not all of us can handle the same amount of alcohol. Different body types, genes, minds, and experiences affect our tolerance. Here, five students talk about their relationship with alcohol in the context of their own risk factors: A family history of alcoholism; fatigue and stress; small body size; medication interaction; and diabetes. Two experts suggest customized strategies for managing their alcohol consumption.

Are you a social engineer? 4 ways to use your powers for good
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Feel like throwing a party? If so, you’ll play an important role in shaping the sexual culture of your campus. Party-throwers are the social engineers who design the spaces in which students meet, drink, dance, talk, and hook up. Party-throwers are in a great position to help reduce the rates of campus sexual assault. As a party-thrower, you can create an environment that makes it easier for everyone to make mindful decisions, in which mutual respect and recognition are the default.

What are ‘alcohol and drug outcome expectancies’?

Research is showing that our environment and unconscious conditioning drive many of the responses we associate with alcohol and other drugs. For example, if we expect that a glass of wine will make it easier to talk to strangers, it will—but that’s more about our expectation than the actual effects of the wine. If we believe that drinking a few beers will make us lose our temper, then we become more easily angered and likely to fight. Researchers call this effect “alcohol outcome expectancies.” Similar effects have been demonstrated in the use of other drugs of abuse. The science of outcome expectancies has significant implications for how we understand and respond to alcohol and drug-related behaviors and abuse.

What is a ‘harm reduction’ approach to health policy and messaging?

‘Harm Reduction’ refers to policies, programs and practices that aim primarily to reduce the adverse health, social and economic consequences of the use of legal and illegal psychoactive drugs without necessarily reducing drug consumption. Harm reduction benefits people who use drugs, their families and the community. “
International Harm Reduction Association, 2009

“Harm reduction can be described as a strategy directed toward individuals or groups that aims to reduce the harms associated with certain behaviours. When applied to substance abuse, harm reduction accepts that a continuing level of drug use (both licit and illicit) in society is inevitable and defines objectives as reducing adverse consequences. It emphasizes the measurement of health, social and economic outcomes, as opposed to the measurement of drug consumption ….There is persuasive evidence from the adult literature that harm reduction approaches greatly reduce morbidity and mortality associated with risky health behaviours.”
—Paediatrics & Child’s Health, 2008 (Canada)