Primary prevention for alcohol misuse in young people

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002;(3):CD003024. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003024.


Background: Alcohol misuse is a cause of concern for health services, policy makers, prevention workers, the criminal justice system, youth workers, teachers and parents.

Objectives: 1. To identify and summarize rigorous evaluations of psychosocial and educational interventions aimed at the primary prevention of alcohol misuse by young people. 2. To assess the effectiveness of primary prevention interventions over the longer-term (> 3 years).

Search strategy: Databases searched (no time limits): Project CORK, BIDS, PSYCLIT, ERIC, ASSIA, MEDLINE, FAMILY-RESOURCES-DATABASE, HEALTH-PERIODICALS-DATABASE, EMBASE, BIDS, Dissertation-Abstracts, SIGLE, DRUG-INFO, SOMED, Social-Work-Abstracts, National-Clearinghouse-on-Alcohol-and-Drug-Information, Mental-Health-Abstracts, DRUG-database, ETOH (all searched Feb-June 2002).

Selection criteria: 1. randomised controlled and non-randomised controlled and interrupted time series designs. 2. educational and psychosocial primary prevention interventions for young people up to 25 years old. 3. alcohol-specific or generic (drugs; lifestyle) interventions providing alcohol outcomes reported. 4. alcohol outcomes: alcohol use, age of alcohol initiation, drinking 5+ drinks on any one occasion, drunkeness, alcohol related violence, alcohol related crime, alcohol related risky behaviour.

Data collection and analysis: Stage 1: All papers screened by one reviewer against inclusion criteria. Stage 2: For those papers that passed Stage 1, key information was extracted from each paper by 2-3 reviewers.

Main results: 20 of the 56 studies included showed evidence of ineffectiveness. No firm conclusions about the effectiveness of prevention interventions in the short- and medium-term were possible. Over the longer-term, the Strengthening Families Program (SFP) showed promise as an effective prevention intervention. The Number Needed to Treat (NNT) for the SFP over 4 years for three alcohol initiation behaviours (alcohol use, alcohol use without permission and first drunkeness) was 9 (for all three behaviours). One study also highlighted the potential value of culturally focused skills training over the longer-term (NNT=17 over three-and-a-half years for 4+ drinks in the last week).

Reviewer's conclusions: 1. Research into important outcome variables needs to be undertaken. 2. Methodology of evaluations needs to be improved. 3. The Strengthening Families Programme needs to be evaluated on a larger scale and in different settings. 4. Culturally-focused interventions require further development and rigorous evaluation. 5. An international register of alcohol and drug misuse prevention interventions should be established and criteria agreed for rating prevention intervention in terms of safety, efficacy and effectiveness.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / prevention & control*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / prevention & control*
  • Child
  • Family
  • Humans