Purpose: The COVID-19 pandemic is associated with reports of increased substance use. College students are a population of concern for high risk binge drinking and their behavior may be particularly impacted by COVID-19 campus closures. Therefore, we examine first-year college students’ binge drinking soon after their university's pandemic-related suspension of in-person operations. Methods: Students from a single campus (N = 741; age: M = 18.05, SD = 0.22) completed one assessment in April-May 2020 post-campus closure (March 2020) including theoretically-informed measures (e.g., drinking motives, norms) and two items of self-reported pre- and post-closure binge drinking frequency, the focus of these analyses. Results: About half of students consistently reported not binge drinking pre- and post-closure; 6.75% reported a consistent frequency of binge drinking pre- and post-closure. Many (39.41%) reported lower 30-day binge drinking post-campus closure compared to their pre-closure reports; few (4.18%) reported higher 30-day binge drinking frequency post-campus closure. Students reporting lower binge drinking post-closure showed differences in coping, social, and enhancement drinking motives and isolation. Students reporting greater post-closure binge drinking reported higher perceived drinking norms and were more likely to be in Greek life. Conclusion: This study demonstrates self-reported patterns in binge drinking among first-year college students at the point of COVID-19 campus closures. Pandemic-related college closures may have been a temporary environmental intervention on this high-risk behavior for some students. Although many students were not binge drinking, some continued binge drinking after closure and may benefit from preventive interventions.
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