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Background: High school athletes have been identified as a high-risk group for heavy drinking. Little is known, however, about the timing of when student athlete heavy drinking begins to diverge from that of non-athletes. Objectives: The aim of the current study is to examine differences in changes in heavy drinking among ninth grade student athletes and non-athletes across the academic year. We hypothesized that student athletes would report greater increases in heavy drinking compared to non-athletes from fall to spring semester. Methods: Ninth grade students (N = 217) aged 13 to 15 completed questionnaires on heavy drinking indices, quantity of peak drinking, frequency of binge drinking, and estimated blood alcohol concentration (eBAC) during the fall and spring semesters. Results: Consistent with our hypothesis, student athletes reported significantly greater increases in heavy drinking compared to non-athletes from fall to spring semester. Additionally, there was a significant increase in all three indices of heavy drinking for student athletes, whereas there were no significant changes for non-athletes. Conclusions: Results demonstrate divergence in the quantity and frequency of heavy drinking between student athletes and non-athletes during the ninth grade. These findings indicate the optimal timing of preventive intervention programs may be different for student athletes and non-athletes. Results also suggest that preventive intervention program targeting heavy drinking should be implemented for high school student athletes as early as the fall semester of the ninth grade when students are transitioning to high school.

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This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Substance Use & Misuse on 2022, available online: