Psychosocial and developmental alcohol misuse prevention in schools can be effective

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School prevention programs aimed at reducing alcohol misuse are good enough to consider widespread use, according to a new systematic review from the Cochrane Library.

The review found 53 studies that explored a range of interventions.  Some studies concluded that the prevention program had no effect, but others showed more positive results.  The authors could not recommend a specific program, but they did highlight three approaches of note:

  1. Life Skills Training Program
  2. Unplugged Program
  3. Good Behaviour Game

The authors concluded that their evidence supported the use of certain generic prevention programs over alcohol-specific ones.

Here’s the ironically titled Cochrane plain language summary:

We conducted a Cochrane systematic review of 53 well-designed experimental studies that examined the effectiveness of school-based universal programs for the prevention of alcohol misuse in young people. The studies were divided into two major groups based on the nature of the prevention program: 1) programs targeting specifically prevention or reduction of alcohol misuse and 2) generic programs with wider focus for prevention (e.g., other drug use/abuse, antisocial behavior).

In the review we found studies that showed no effects of the preventive program, as well as studies that demonstrated statistically significant effects. There was no easily discernible pattern in program characteristics that would distinguish studies with positive results from those with no effects. Most commonly observed positive effects across programs were for drunkenness and binge drinking.

In conclusion, current evidence suggests that certain generic psychosocial and developmental prevention programs can be effective and could be considered as policy and practice options. These include the Life Skills Training Program, the Unplugged program, and the Good Behaviour Game.

Foxcroft DR, Tsertsvadze A. Universal school-based prevention programs for alcohol misuse in young people. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 5. Art. No.: CD009113. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD009113.

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Andre Tomlin

André Tomlin is an Information Scientist with 20 years experience working in evidence-based healthcare. He's worked in the NHS, for Oxford University and since 2002 as Managing Director of Minervation Ltd, a consultancy company who do clever digital stuff for charities, universities and the public sector. Most recently André has been the driving force behind the Mental Elf and the National Elf Service; an innovative digital platform that helps professionals keep up to date with simple, clear and engaging summaries of evidence-based research. André is a Trustee at the Centre for Mental Health and an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London Division of Psychiatry. He lives in Bristol, surrounded by dogs, elflings and lots of woodland!

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