Objective: This article tests whether different forms of community-level alcohol control significantly affect injury deaths in a population with extremely high injury mortality.
Method: The 1981 Alaska local option law provides a natural experiment for studying how implementation of community level controls may be associated with changes in injury deaths, most of which are alcohol-related, among Alaska Natives living in small communities. The study compares population and community-specific death rates under different levels of alcohol control for the 97 communities that passed restrictions between 1980 and 1993 with the death rates in the same communities during periods when no restrictions were in place.
Results: Injury death rates were generally lower during periods when alcohol sales, importation or possession were restricted than when no restrictions were in place (wet). More restrictive controls (dry) significantly reduced homicides; less restrictive control options (damp) reduced suicides. Accident and homicide death rates fell, on average, by 74 and 66 per 100,000, respectively, for the 89 communities that banned sale and importation or possession. A control group of 61 small communities that did not change control status under the law showed no significant changes over time in accident or homicide death rates.
Conclusions: The changes in accidental and homicide death rates are statistically significant, although these reduced rates remain 2.5 to 7 times national death rates. The isolated nature of Alaskan villages may explain why alcohol control has more effect in Alaska than has been found in studies of Native Americans living in other states.