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Prevention of alcohol use in older teens

March 17, 2019

A recently released publication in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, "Prevention of Alcohol Use in Older Teens: A Randomized Trial of an Online Family Prevention Program" reveals successful results for an on-line, family-based prevention program, Smart Choices 4 Teens, which is designed to reduce alcohol use among 16 and 17-year old teens.

To test whether Smart Choices 4 Teens works, 411 families were randomly assigned to either the program or to a control condition. Based on data collected 6 months after the intervention, Smart Choices 4 Teens decreased alcohol use and alcohol-related problems for teens. Using a Dosage model analyses that reflects whether the amount of the program completed is related to outcomes, the following outcomes were significant at the 6-month follow-up:
  • Teens drank fewer days and less alcohol over the last six months.
  • Teens drank fewer days and less alcohol over the last 30 days.
  • Teens reported less drunkenness and less binge-drinking during the past 30 days.
  • Teens reported less parent and teen communication that it is "ok" to drink.
  • Higher program dosage was related to more parent and teen-reported communication about social host laws. <
After 12 months, the following outcomes were related to the amount of program completed:
  • Teens drank fewer days and consumed less alcohol over the past 30 days.
  • Teens consumed less alcohol over the past 6 months,
  • Teens reported less drunkenness over the past 6 months.
Using another statistical model referred to as Intention-to-Treat (comparing all families in the experimental group to all families in the control group, regardless of whether the families in the experimental group initiated the program), statistically significant outcomes were found for the Smart Choices 4 Teens at the 6-month follow-up:
  • Teens in the experimental group reported fewer friends who had been drunk.
  • Parents in the experimental group reported more communication about social host laws.
These results indicate that this web-based delivery of a parent-teen prevention program, Smart Choices 4 Teens, reduces teen alcohol use and risk factors for teen alcohol use. Engaging families in program completion is particularly important in a family-based prevention strategy, and this program supported both parents and teens engaging in the materials with off-line guided family discussions. Given the limited alcohol prevention programs available for older teens, Smart Choices 4 Teens fills an important gap in the health promotion efforts directed toward teenage alcohol use.

Says lead author, Dr. Hilary Byrnes of the Prevention Research Center: "Findings indicate that Smart Choices 4 Teens works and show that a family-based web approach to alcohol prevention is relevant for older teens. Future research should focus on strategies to encourage families to engage in and complete prevention programming."
This research was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA-- "Web-based Family Prevention of Alcohol and Risky Sex for Older Teens," Brenda A. Miller, PI, R01 AA020977) and was conducted at the Prevention Research Center, of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. The contents of this paper are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent official views of NIAAA or NIH. For a complete description of the study, see:

Source: Byrnes, H.F., Miller, B.A., Grube, J.W., Bourdeau, B., Buller, D.B., Wang-Schweig, M. and Woodall, W.G., 2019. Prevention of alcohol use in older teens: A randomized trial of an online family prevention program. Psychology of addictive behaviors, 33(1), p.1. .

PIRE is an independent, nonprofit organization merging scientific knowledge and proven practice to create solutions that improve the health, safety and well-being of individuals, communities, and nations around the world.

The Prevention Research Center (PRC) of PIRE is one of 16 centers sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), of the National Institutes of Health, and is the only one that specializes in prevention. PRC's focus is on conducting research to better understand the social and physical environments that influence individual behavior that lead to alcohol and drug misuse.

The Resource Link for Community Action provides information and practical guidance to state and community agencies and organizations, policy makers, and members of the public who are interested in combating alcohol and other drug abuse and misuse.


Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation

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