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When young adolescents attend voluntary substance prevention programs that present the information in an interesting way, it is likely to reduce alcohol use, according to a new study.

Researchers evaluated an intervention program called CHOICE, “which is presented during five 30-minute sessions in a non-confrontational and non-judgmental manner. The program dispels myths about the prevalence of alcohol use, challenges unrealistic beliefs about substance use, presents ideas on resisting pressure to use substances and stresses the benefits of reducing or ceasing substance use.”

Most of the students who attended CHOICE reported in a survey that they liked the style of the program and found the facilitators helpful. The data also revealed that African-American and multi-ethnic students, as well as alcohol and marijuana users, were more likely to attend CHOICE.

Additionally, the researchers discovered a “school-wide effect” regarding alcohol use for all students at the intervention schools, regardless of whether the students attended CHOICE: Students at the eight schools that utilized the CHOICE program were less likely to begin alcohol use during the academic year compared with students at the eight control schools where it wasn’t offered.

“There are many mandatory school-based programs aimed at preventing youth alcohol and drug use, but voluntary after-school models are less common,” said Elizabeth D’Amico, the study’s lead author. “Such programs may become more important as school resources and teachers’ time are spread thinner. In addition, they offer parents and students a familiar environment that may be less stigmatizing than being referred to off-site services. Our data showed that in schools where CHOICE was offered, one adolescent out of 15 was prevented from initiating alcohol use during this time period. In other words, only 15 people would have to be exposed to this brief, voluntary program to significantly benefit one individual. Overall, results of the study were modest and additional research in this area is definitely needed, but our findings suggest that adolescents will voluntarily attend an after-school program that specifically provides information on alcohol and drugs, and that this type of program can reduce alcohol use at the school level. This study is the next step in understanding how voluntary after-school programs can help younger adolescents make healthier choices.”

Source: RAND Corporation

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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