Study Advocates Voluntary Alcohol Education for Teens
RAND Corporation, a non-profit research institution, announced Wednesday that middle school children are less likely to consume drugs and alcohol if educational material is a voluntary option. The company’s study claims information provided “in an engaging, confidential and non-judgmental way” in a voluntary after-school program called CHOICE.
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.
"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."
Although the study highlights an alternative style of approaching adolescent drug and substance abuse, the experiment focuses exclusively on a trial of the CHOICE program. While it is unclear if researchers intended this, the results suggest the CHOICE program as an alternative alcohol education program for school districts.
The CHOICE program does have its share of benefits. By having the program after-school, teachers would have additional time to prepare students for state assessments and one-on-one attention. In addition, CHOICE states that it is the only program of its kind to reach middle school students. The study also claims CHOICE is a cheaper alternative to LAUSD’s current option, SAMHA, but there was no evidence provided to support this claim.
On the other hand, the CHOICE study highlights the program’s shortcomings. The program approaches adolescent drug and alcohol abuse from a preventative angle, which excludes students who have already partaken in or addicted to illicit material. The study also claims that children form low-class families are less likely to attend these meetings and could miss this educational opportunity. Researchers did not disclose their findings on preventative drug abuse as well.
Based upon the study’s analysis, CHOICE is a plausible option for school districts to consider implementing. However, it is inconclusive if the program’s curriculum actually changed student’s drinking habits.
“[Researchers] concluded from these studies that there was no evidence that changing beliefs was an effective means of changing drinking,” said D’Amico. “[However] the absence of mediating effects for alcohol-related beliefs is certainly not without precedence in the literature.”