A quasi-randomized group trial of a brief alcohol intervention on risky single occasion drinking among secondary school students

Int J Public Health. 2012 Dec;57(6):935-44. doi: 10.1007/s00038-012-0419-0. Epub 2012 Oct 23.


Objectives: To show the effectiveness of a brief group alcohol intervention. Aims of the intervention were to reduce the frequency of heavy drinking occasions, maximum number of drinks on an occasion and overall weekly consumption.

Methods: A cluster quasi-randomized control trial (intervention n = 338; control n = 330) among 16- to 18-year-old secondary school students in the Swiss Canton of Zürich. Groups homogeneous for heavy drinking occasions (5+/4+ drinks for men/women) consisted of those having medium risk (3-4) or high risk (5+) occasions in the past 30 days. Groups of 8-10 individuals received two 45-min sessions based on motivational interviewing techniques.

Results: Borderline significant beneficial effects (p < 0.10) on heavy drinking occasions and alcohol volume were found 6 months later for the medium-risk group only, but not for the high-risk group. None of the effects remained significant after Bonferroni corrections.

Conclusions: Group intervention was ineffective for all at-risk users. The heaviest drinkers may need more intensive treatment. Alternative explanations were iatrogenic effects among the heaviest drinkers, assessment reactivity, or reduction of social desirability bias at follow-up through peer feedback.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol Drinking / prevention & control*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Group Processes
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Program Evaluation*
  • Risk Factors
  • Schools*
  • Students
  • Switzerland
  • Young Adult