Interventions for reducing adolescent alcohol abuse: a meta-analytic review

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2010 Jan;164(1):85-91. doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2009.235.


Objective: To assess the effectiveness of substance abuse interventions for their ability to reduce adolescent alcohol use.

Data sources: MEDLINE; PsycINFO; ERIC; Wilson Social Science Abstracts; Criminal Justice Abstracts; Social Work Abstracts; Social Science Citation Index; Dissertations Abstracts International; National Criminal Justice Research Service; Social, Psychological, Criminological, Educational Trials Register; and the PsiTri databases from 1960 through 2008.

Study selection: Of 64 titles and abstracts identified, 16 studies and 26 outcomes constituted the sample. The researchers calculated Hedges g effect sizes and used a random-effects model to calculate adjusted pooled effect sizes. Heterogeneity was explored using stratified analyses. Main Exposure Completion of a substance abuse intervention that aimed to reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption.

Main outcome measures: Abstinence, frequency of alcohol use, and quantity of alcohol use measured between 1 month and 1 year upon completion of treatment.

Results: Pooled effects of standardized mean differences indicate that interventions significantly reduce adolescent alcohol use (Hedges g = -0.61; 95% confidence interval [CI], -0.83 to -0.40). Stratified analyses revealed larger effects for individual treatment (Hedges g = -0.75; 95% CI, -1.05 to -0.40) compared with family-based treatments (Hedges g = -0.46; 95% CI, -0.66 to -0.26).

Conclusions: Treatments for adolescent substance abuse appear to be effective in reducing alcohol use. Individual-only interventions had larger effect sizes than family-based interventions and effect sizes decreased as length of follow-up increased. Furthermore, behavior-oriented treatments demonstrated promise in attaining long-term effects.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol Drinking / prevention & control*
  • Alcoholism / prevention & control
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Family Therapy
  • Humans
  • Treatment Outcome