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Alcohol Prevention

Alcohol Prevention Saving Lives
An online alcohol prevention program that has reduced alcohol consumption among first-year students on American college campuses "is a promising development in the fight against underage drinking," said Wendy J. Hamilton, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) National President. Assessment data released today, from eight colleges that in 2002-2003 required their first-year students to take AlcoholEdu from Outside The Classroom, Inc., showed a decline of more than 13 percent in alcohol consumption by student drinkers along with a 10 percent increase in students abstaining from alcohol entirely.

"Educating underage college students about the dangers of underage drinking and drunk driving is a top priority and is the first step in prevention. AlcoholEdu is showing that students respond extremely well to an online prevention experience and the program integrates well with UMADD, our campus-based student organizations," Hamilton said. "When MADD and Outside The Classroom deliver a new version of AlcoholEdu for high-school-aged students next year, we expect to see thousands of young lives changed, some even saved, by making decisions not to drink before they are of legal age and to never drink and drive." MADD and Outside The Classroom are partnering in development of AlcoholEdu for Youth, a new online alcohol prevention program for high school students, new drivers and youth alcohol offenders that will be available in the 2003-2004 school year.

Outside The Classroom released results from its 2002-2003 college program assessment today. Assessment data collected from more than 3,000 students at the eight schools immediately before and a month after they completed AlcoholEdu in the fall of 2002 revealed that:

  • The proportion of students abstaining increased by 10 percent, from 39.4 to 43.4 percent of the total.
  • Among students who continued to drink, the average number of drinks consumed per week declined more than 13 percent, from 9.9 before taking AlcoholEdu to 8.6 when measured a month after completing the program.
  • The incidence of certain high-risk drinking behaviors, such as "pre-partying" drinking at home before going out for the evening showed significant decreases as well.
  • And there were substantial improvements in healthier and safer behaviors, such as pacing drinks at one per hour and avoiding drinking when taking prescription medications.

"We applaud the many colleges making measurable progress in preventing problems caused by underage and high risk drinking," Hamilton said. "Their experience with AlcoholEdu will enable us to develop and deliver a youth program that will address the problem at its source by giving young people the knowledge and understanding they need the first time they are confronted with the decision whether or not to drink alcohol."

AlcoholEdu is an interactive, Web-based educational experience that empowers students to make safer and healthier choices by engaging them with science-based information and strengthening their understanding of drinking decisions and what influences them. It takes students through a customized, practical experience with decision-making exercises that emulate real-life situations they may encounter. AlcoholEdu supports and integrates with other prevention initiatives ranging from motivational feedback to environmental management programs, providing an effective solution to the problem of high-risk underage drinking.
-The Black Collegian Online

Preventing Alcohol Use
Each year, alcohol use results in significant and costly health and social problems. These problems include traffic crashes, accidental falls, burns, drowning, cirrhosis, suicide, alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse, interpersonal violence, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, underage drinking, and other medical problems (Reynolds, Stewart, and Fisher 1997). Youth who engage in alcohol use are not immune from experiencing all of these problems, whether during their youth or later on in life. During youth, the problems related to underage drinking have been identified as binge drinking, impaired driving, poor school performance, and crime (Clark and Hilton 1991; Stinson and Campbell 1996).

Some of the more disturbing statistics on youth alcohol use show that alcohol is the drug of choice for most youth (Johnston, O'Malley, and Bachman 1998), alcohol is the most common contributor to youth injury, death, and criminal behavior (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 1992), and underage use can result in significantly increased risk for alcohol addiction (Grant and Dawson 1997). And while it may be true that youth and young adults tend to drink less than older adults, they tend to drink considerably more alcohol when they do drink (Clark and Hilton 1991).

Alcohol Prevention and Crime
Despite the fact that 21 years old is the minimum purchase age (MPA) in all States, youth continue to purchase and consume alcohol every day across the nation. Researchers suggest that youth consumption of alcohol often leads to the commission of crime and a higher incidence of victimization for individuals under the influence. Statistics supporting these claims detail that alcohol consumption is associated with over 27 percent of all murders, 31 percent of all rapes, 33 percent of all property offenses, and more then 37 percent of all robberies committed by young people (Connecticut Clearinghouse 2001).

Although not specifically focusing on youth consumption, studies suggest that a reduction of alcohol availability and education in alcohol prevention within a community may also reduce rates of crime. In a study by Scribner et al. (1995), the relationship between risk of physical violence and alcohol availability in Los Angeles County was assessed. Data were collected on various crimes, including the number of assaults and robberies from 74 Los Angeles County municipalities. Analyses were conducted to determine whether a relationship existed between the number of alcohol outlets in a given area and the total of assault incidents. Results indicated that greater outlet density was correlated with a greater number of assaults in the community.

In a subsequent study, Scribner et al. (1999) revealed a similar pattern examining alcohol availability and the rate of homicide in New Orleans. Data were collected on both the number of alcohol outlets per mile and per person, as well as the rate of homicides in the city of New Orleans. Analyses were conducted to determine whether the variables correlated. Results indicated that in areas with a high number of off-site alcohol outlets both per square mile and per person, a greater proportion of homicides also occurred.

Conclusions from these studies suggest that the implementation of environmental strategies related to reducing alcohol availability may prove helpful to crime prevention as well as alcohol prevention. Specifically, reducing the availability of alcohol to youth may mitigate the rate of criminal activity and victimization for this population in communities across the country. There is clearly a need for comprehensive prevention planning that includes environmental strategies aimed at youth alcohol consumption.
-Electronic Prevention Community Organizer

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