Brief alcohol interventions for adolescents and young adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis

J Subst Abuse Treat. 2015 Apr:51:1-18. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2014.09.001. Epub 2014 Sep 16.


This study reports findings from a meta-analysis summarizing the effectiveness of brief alcohol interventions for adolescents (age 11-18) and young adults (age 19-30). We identified 185 eligible study samples using a comprehensive literature search and synthesized findings using random-effects meta-analyses with robust standard errors. Overall, brief alcohol interventions led to significant reductions in alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems among adolescents (g = 0.27 and g = 0.19) and young adults (g = 0.17 and g = 0.11). These effects persisted for up to 1 year after intervention and did not vary across participant demographics, intervention length, or intervention format. However, certain intervention modalities (e.g., motivational interviewing) and components (e.g., decisional balance, goal-setting exercises) were associated with larger effects. We conclude that brief alcohol interventions yield beneficial effects on alcohol-related outcomes for adolescents and young adults that are modest but potentially worthwhile given their brevity and low cost.

Keywords: Adolescents; Brief alcohol intervention; Meta-analysis; Systematic review; Young adults.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / prevention & control*
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Motivational Interviewing / methods
  • Psychotherapy, Brief / methods*
  • Young Adult