Teenagers, drinking and driving: a quick trip to the grave

nal. Nonetheless, said Shope, "it's an intriguing finding, and it certainly looks like we did make a difference." She was more enthusiastic about the finding concerning the sub-group of teens who were drinking less than one drink per week at the time of the program.

"I think it's important that the prevention program seemed to work best among the group that had not yet started to drink," Shope said. "This is a typical finding in prevention. To get to them at the right time makes all the difference. It's just like trying to prevent smoking; you need to stop them before the age of 13. We already know that drinking increases very much during high school. If you're going to do prevention, you have to get in there before the behavior starts, otherwise you're doing treatment or harm reduction, not prevention."

"This is one of the few studies I know that looks at an educational program and actually finds some bottom-line results of observable behavior," said Hedlund. "It gives some scientific data that say you really can teach high school kids something. I'm saying that only somewhat facetiously. This is a very difficult group to try to educate, especially in ways that are socially responsible, when a lot of these kids are looking for ways to be socially irresponsible. So it's good news that this study gives us some indication that education about socially acceptable behaviors may indeed make a bottom-line difference. The results aren't conclusive, but they are very promising."

Apart from the findings themselves, Shope said the study also raises several other points. "There really needs to be more follow-up or long-term evaluation of prevention programs," she said. "We also need longer-term intervention or teaching. Why would a five-hour program in 10th grade, with no revisiting of the topic why would that have much of an effect? Sometimes these school programs are just a drop in the bucket when there's a lot of other stuff going on in a

Contact: Jean T. Shope, Ph.D.
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research

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