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Teenage Drinking: The Effectiveness of Intervention Programs Essay


Various intervention programs have been proposed and implemented in the educational institutions of the United States to curb underage drinking. Some of them have met with success and some others not quite so. It is generally learnt that programs that cater to the specific demands of a particular risk-group have performed better than the rest. A review of literature on the subject has also thrown light on areas of deficiency with these programs and possible remedial measures. Only a comprehensive program design that is based on a scientific and sociological understanding of the underage drinking problem can produce better results.

Education – Adolescent Alcoholism:


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There are approximately 26.8 million Children of Alcoholics in America. When compared to other risk groups, these children are the most vulnerable to fall into underage drinking habits. Of this group, those aged 18 or younger comprise nearly 50%. Almost inevitably, these children face negative outcomes as a result of their parental misdemeanor (Emshoff, 1999).

Another intervention model that is forwarded recently “suggests that building competence through increasing coping skills will reduce the incidence of psychopathology. Thus, appropriate goals for primary prevention for Children of Alcoholics would include the reduction of stress and the development of self-esteem, social competence, and a strong social support system (Emshoff, 1999).

In a survey conducted by Jacqueline Miller and her team of researchers, some startling facts were revealed about the prevalence of alcohol consumption among school going students. 45% of high school going students had admitted to drinking alcohol during the past month. 29% of the respondents reported drinking in excess as well. The students who reported to drink or binge-drink also displayed “poor school performance and involvement in other health risk behaviors such as riding with a driver who had been drinking, being currently sexually active, smoking cigarettes or cigars, being a victim of dating violence, attempting suicide, and using illicit drugs” (Miller, et. al., .2007)

In light of such bleak consequences of teenage drinking, it is critical that educational institutions across the United States draw up intervention programs to address this pandemic facing the next generation. The necessity for early intervention had been identified quite some time back and many proposals were forwarded in remedying the situation. Different programs have met with different levels of success. The following passages give a review of these programs and their efficacy/drawbacks (Miller, et. al., 2007).

A high proportion of buy attempts by underage youth are successful, and more than of high school students say that alcohol is easy to obtain. On top of these, most alcohol advertisements are placed in media outlets where the audiences are usually from the younger age groups. In light of this, it is imperative that authorities from educational institutions device intervention measures to nip the problem in its nascence. Some of those intervention programs are discussed below (Palfrey, 2005).

Literature Review:

Student Assistance Programs (SAPs)

These programs were designed after the success of Employee Assistance Programs. The aim of a SAP is to provide extensive “prevention and early intervention services” to youth that are especially vulnerable. The programs were implemented across all levels of schooling in America. Although the programs pay special attention to Children of Alcoholics, all high-risk children come under their purview. The programs are adapted to meet the specific requirements of a group while taking into consideration the availability of resources. Student counselors who have had prior experience are employed to provide their services at the school premises or community centers. Intervention steps are proposed to the students based on their particular inter-personal, socio-economic and substance abuse problem. The SAP ropes in school staff as well, so as to aid the counselors from outside with necessary input and to also help them coordinate the program better. Students can volunteer to attend the program or can be referred by parents or teachers (Bailey, et. al, 2004).

The SAPs have achieved remarkable success right since their initiation. Three reasons were cited for its success:

Firstly, the program’s “structure and process of identifying students” already into alcoholism and drug abuse and those vulnerable to it is a time-tested one. Secondly, the SAPs involve the community in all its programs. Thirdly, the aftercare support offered by the programs help the students reintegrate into society in a streamlined fashion.

Stress Management and Alcohol Awareness Program

Another equally successful program implemented by the American educational institutions. The program is a short-termed one lasting for 2 months based on early intervention. In the words of

“The framework is a person-centered, competency-building intervention that uses various psycho-educational techniques to strengthen children’s competence. These include the enhancement of self-esteem, provision of alcohol-related information, and emotion and problem-focused coping strategies. The process includes showing a film depicting experiences of alcohol addicted students to all students in the targeted grades, holding an informational follow-up meeting to discuss the film and explain the program, and finally extending an invitation to all children who are interested in participating.” (Emshoff, 1999).

Of late, the program incorporates lectures for students to help them gain coping skills. The personalized attention provided by the program is another reason for its success, as each student can apply prevention techniques that are applicable to his/her particular case. The following table, taken from (Emshoff, 1999) reveals the seriousness of the issue.

TABLE 2 Prevalence of Binge Drinking Among US High School Students Who
Report Drinking Alcohol According to Gender, 2003
Characteristic Boys (n = 3273), Girls (n = 3230),
% (95% Cl) % (95% Cl)
All respondents 67.4(65.0-69.8) 61.1(58.2-64.0)
12-14 y 48.9(41 8-56.0) 60.5(50.5-70.4)
15 17 y 67.8(65.3-70.3) 60.9(57.8-64.0)
[greater than or equal to] 74.0(69.5-78.3) 62.4(57.8-67.1)
18 y
9th 57.2(50.6-63.9) 54.6(47.2-61.9)
10th 66.8(62.1-73.5) 61.6(56.1-67.1)
11th 72.4(68.5-76.2) 64.1(59.9-68.4)
12th 71.9(68.3-75.6) 63.4(57.9-68.9)
White 71.6(69.1-74.0) 66.3(63.8-68.8)
Black or African American 48.7(41.7-55.7) 34.7(28.2-41.2)
Hispanic or Latino 65.7(60.0-71.5) 62.6(58.4-66.8)
Other (a) 63.1(49.5-76.6) 53.5(40.8-66.1)
Characteristic Total (n = 6543),
% (95% CI)
All respondents 64.2(61.8-66.6)
12-14 y 55.6(49.2-62.0)
15 17y 64.3(61.7-66.9)
[greater than or equal to] 68.7(65.5-71.9)
18 y
9th 55.8(50.5-61.1)
10th 64.1(60.2-68.0)
11th 68.3(65.0-71.6)
12th 67.7(64.9-70.4)
White 68.9(67.0-70.9)
Black or African American 41 5(36.6-46.4)
Hispanic or Latino 64.1(60.0-68.1)
Other (a) 58.7(50.6-66.7)
Binge drinking is defined as having drank [greater than or equal to]
drinks of alcohol in a row on [greater than or equal to] 1 day during
the past 30 days.
“Drinking alcohol” is defined as having drank at least 1 drink of
alcohol on [greater than or equal to] 1 day during the past 30 days
(a) Includes American Indian, Alaskan Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian,
Pacific Islander, and multiracial.

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