September 11, 2009

Program cuts binge drinking 37 percent

A prevention program called Communities That Care substantially lowered levels of alcohol and smokeless tobacco use among adolescents, its U.S. creators say.

The study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, found 5.7 percent of the eighth-grade students in towns using the program engaged in binge drinking in the past two weeks versus 9 percent in towns not using the program.

J. David Hawkins and Richard Catalano of the University of Washington's Social Development Research Group developed the program, in which each town assessed the levels of risk factors contributing to local drug use and delinquency and then use scientifically tested programs to address the top two priorities.

Hawkins and Catalano conducted a community-randomized trial that involved more than 4,400 students tracked for five years in 12 matched small and moderate sized towns in seven states -- Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

There was a 48 percent reduction in the use of smokeless tobacco, a 23 percent reduction in the number of teens drinking alcohol and 31 percent fewer acts of delinquent behavior in the towns with the program, the study said.

This study shows we can prevent adolescent risk behaviors community wide by using this system, Hawkins said in statement. The most dramatic finding concerned binge drinking. We know kids who drink that way are at risk for developing alcohol abuse and dependence later.