Impact of banning alcohol on outpatient visits in Barrow, Alaska

JAMA. 1997 Dec 3;278(21):1775-7.


Context: Community availability of alcohol affects alcohol consumption patterns and alcohol-related health and social problems. In Barrow, Alaska, an isolated community at the northernmost reaches of the United States, during a 33-month period, possession and importation of alcohol were legal, completely banned, made legal again, and then banned again.

Objective: To determine the impact of these public policy changes on alcohol-related outpatient visits at the area hospital.

Design: Retrospective review of outpatient records; time-series analysis of alcohol-related visits with respect to community alcohol policy.

Main outcome measures: Total monthly outpatient visits for alcohol-related problems.

Results: There was a substantial decrease in the number of alcohol-related outpatient visits when the ban on possession and importation was imposed compared with baseline. When the ban was lifted, outpatient visits increased; when the ban was reimposed, the number of outpatient visits again decreased. Interrupted time-series analyses confirm that the alcohol ban, its lifting, and its reimposition had a statistically significant and negative effect on the number of alcohol-related outpatient visits (P<.05).

Conclusion: In a geographically isolated community, the prohibition of alcohol can be an effective public health intervention, reducing the health problems associated with alcohol use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alaska / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholic Beverages / supply & distribution*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / epidemiology
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / prevention & control
  • Commerce / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Drug and Narcotic Control / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Models, Statistical
  • Outpatient Clinics, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Outpatients / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies