Unlike most professors, Arizona State University psychology instructor Will Corbin tends bar during class. Corbin’s bar lab, stocked with all the gin, whiskey, vodka, tequila and mood lighting necessary to produce drunken students, and others like it are where many familiar alcohol-related statistics come from. By observing their behavior, Corbin hopes to better understand alcohol disorders and risky drinking-related behaviors that are common on U.S. college campuses.
Corbin moves bar lab from Yale to ASU
According to AZ Central, there are approximately a dozen bar labs at college campuses across the U.S. In total, Will Corbin has been tending his for nine years, the last two at ASU and the seven previous years at Yale University.
From lighting and décor to stainless-steel sinks and friendly banter, his National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism-funded bar labs are intended to resemble real bars, rather than laboratories. Researchers serve alcohol and record student responses as they become intoxicated. Experiment subjects are mostly ASU students, ages 21 to 30, and have been pre-screened by researchers and paid for their services.
“The biggest thing I get is: ‘You’ve gotta be kidding me. You have a bar, and you give people alcohol as part of your research?’ ” said Corbin.
Corbin’s goal is to better understand how to treat alcohol disorders and decrease the risky behavior that comes with the territory, such as drunk driving, unsafe sex, sexual assault and academic problems. The professor reportedly has more applicants than he can use.
Bar lab began in the 1980s
Research into college drinking and college-age drinkers began at the University of Washington in the 1980s. Dr. G. Alan Marlatt’s Behavioral Alcohol Research Lab (BAR Lab) and subsequent ventures like Will Corbin’s BARCA (Behavioral Alcohol Research for Clinical Advancement) Lab have contributed a great deal to the literature of alcohol disorders.
By closely regulating alcohol intake and monitoring blood alcohol levels with a Breathalyzer, Corbin and his team of researchers create a safer situation for students who become intoxicated during an array of experiments that test memory, reaction time, inhibitions and moral flexibility. Genetic predisposition to alcohol problems and environmental risk factors are among the key areas of study.
Sobering stats on college drinking problems
The need for bar labs like the one Corbin runs remains great, as the following frightening statistics culled from various U.S. studies suggest.
- Death: 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related injuries each year.
- Injury: 599,000 students are injured under the influence of alcohol each year.
- Assault: 696,000 students are assaulted by another student who has been drinking each year.
- Sexual abuse: 97,000 students are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
- Unsafe sex: 400,000 students have unprotected sex; more than 100,000 are too intoxicated to know if they gave consent.
- Academic problems: About 25 percent of students report academic consequences of their drinking.
- Drunk driving: 3.36 million students drive under the influence of alcohol.
Interview with Corbin in bar lab
College Drinking: http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/statssummaries/snapshot.aspx
USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2008-08-18-college-drinking_N.htm
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