A computerized harm minimization prevention program for alcohol misuse and related harms: randomized controlled trial

Addiction. 2009 Apr;104(4):564-75. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2009.02510.x.


Aims: Hazardous alcohol use is a leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults world-wide, yet few effective prevention interventions exist. This study was the first to examine a computerized harm minimization intervention to reduce alcohol misuse and related harms in adolescents.

Design: Cluster randomized controlled trial of a six-session curriculum-integrated harm minimization prevention program. The intervention was delivered by computer in the form of a teenage drama, which provided education through alcohol-related scenarios to which young people could relate.

Setting: Schools in Australia.

Participants: A total of 1466 year 8 students (13 years) from 16 high schools in Australia were allocated randomly to a computerized prevention program (n = 611, eight schools) or usual classes (n = 855, eight schools).

Measurements: Change in knowledge, alcohol use, alcohol-related harms and alcohol expectancies.

Findings: A computerized prevention program was more effective than usual classes in increasing alcohol-related knowledge of facts that would inform safer drinking choices and decreasing the positive social expectations which students believed alcohol may afford. For females it was effective in decreasing average alcohol consumption, alcohol-related harms and the frequency of drinking to excess (more than four standard drinks; 10 g ethanol). For males the behavioural effects were not significant.

Conclusions: A harm minimization approach is effective in educating young people about alcohol-related risks and is effective in reducing risky drinking and harms among girls. Reduction of problems among boys remains a challenge.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol Drinking / prevention & control*
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Australia
  • Female
  • Harm Reduction*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • School Health Services
  • Software
  • Students