Aims: To establish the long-term efficacy of a universal internet-based alcohol and cannabis prevention programme in schools.
Methods: A cluster-randomized controlled trial was conducted to assess the effectiveness of the Climate Schools: Alcohol and Cannabis Course. The evidence-based course, aimed at reducing alcohol and cannabis use, is facilitated by the internet and consists of 12 novel and curriculum consistent lessons delivered over 6 months.
Participants: A total of 764 year 8 students (13 years) from 10 Australian secondary schools were allocated randomly to the internet-based prevention programme (n = 397, five schools), or to their usual health classes (n = 367, five schools).
Measures: Participants were assessed at baseline, immediately post, and 6 and 12 months following completion of the intervention, on measures of alcohol and cannabis knowledge, attitudes, use and related harms.
Results: This paper reports the final results of the intervention trial, 12 months following the completion of the Climate Schools: Alcohol and Cannabis Course. The effectiveness of the course 6 months following the intervention has been reported previously. At the 12-month follow-up, compared to the control group, students in the intervention group showed significant improvements in alcohol and cannabis knowledge, a reduction in average weekly alcohol consumption and a reduction in frequency of drinking to excess. No differences between groups were found on alcohol expectancies, cannabis attitudes or alcohol- and cannabis-related harms. The course was found to be acceptable by teachers and students as a means of delivering drug education in schools.
Conclusions: Internet-based prevention programs for school-age children can improve student's knowledge about alcohol and cannabis, and may also reduce alcohol use twelve months after completion.