||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (December 2014)|
History in the United States
Teaching about alcohol consumption has been a controversial topic for schools in the United States due to the differing viewpoints of Americans on the subject. A variety of educational methods that reflect these viewpoints have been developed and tried over the last century, but have yielded little behavioural change. These methods have included:
- an abstinence model — simply "don't do it"
- a social-economic model — which employs statistics demonstrating the likely effects of irresponsible drinking
- an alcoholism approach — which treats consumption of alcohol as a disease.
- an alternative approach — which seeks to offer alternatives to drinking.
Alcohol education standards in K–12 public schools vary from state to state. In rare cases, some states such as Alaska do not require a statewide alcohol education program in their public schools. In other states, such as Delaware, the requirements are much more stringent. Delaware's students must complete 10 hours of drug and alcohol training per year in grades K-4 and 15 hours in grades 5–12.
Many studies such as Project SAFE have shown that targeting people as young as 6–8 is crucial in order to prevent them from abusing alcohol later on in life. People who begin drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to abuse alcohol later on in life. SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) claims that “approximately 10 percent of 12-year-olds say they have used alcohol at least once. By age 13 that number doubles."
In past alcohol education programs in American schools, scare tactics were used in an attempt to persuade adolescents not to drink. According to a non-profit organization known as Prevention First, the use of scare tactics in alcohol awareness programs can actually be counterproductive. This is due to the fact that students learn better from someone who is honest and does not present them with fallacies.
Once programs that used scare tactics were disproved, evidence-based programs became the new norm. Evidence-based programs are programs that are backed by studies proving their effectiveness. One evidence-based alcohol prevention program that has proven very effective in reducing alcohol use is the LST (Life Skills Training Program). The LST program is designed for students grade 3-10. If administered every year, it would consist of 64 classroom sessions focused specifically on substance abuse. The officials with the LST claim that there has been up to a 60 percent reduction in alcohol use among students who completed the program. Although it may seem hard to believe that one program could cause such a significant reduction in alcohol use, the LST program’s effectiveness has been proven by many studies published in scholarly journals such as The Journal of Behavioral Medicine, The Journal of Studies on Alcohol, and The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Cost and benefit
People often wonder if alcohol education programs are worth the money. According to the article “What We Can—and Cannot—Expect from School-Based Drug Prevention,” out of The Journal of Drug and Alcohol Review, an average substance abuse program costing $150 can save $840 in social costs per participant. Granted this study focused on more than just alcohol, but at 28 percent alcohol was responsible for the second highest amount of social savings. Social savings can be seen in the form of healthcare expenditures, incarcerations, impaired productivity, premature death, and so on. The authors of this article also claim that a reduction in premature childbirth and other drug usage, along with better school performance and higher graduation rates are extra benefits of using a substance abuse program.
Alcohol programs and courses as a requirement of college students is a current, widespread movement to educate underage students about alcohol consumption in efforts to make binge drinking decrease, and safer students.
Currently 747 schools in the United States require some sort of alcohol education. Students must complete a program which educates them on the consequences of binge drinking. MADD states in a recent publication that 4 out of 5 college students drink and 100% of students surveyed said that drinking alcohol while in college has social benefits. Most colleges have alcohol policies which restrict underage drinking and have consequences. Many schools also require an entrance program to be attended by all transfer students as well as freshman that make the dangers and the policies regarding alcohol clear. A documentary about the late 18 year old Gordie Bailey, is shown at many colleges.
Online courses are used in many schools. A course commonly used by institutions is AlcoholEdu, a population-level prevention program typically administered to all high school or college freshmen.
In the United States, Collegedrinkingprevention.gov is a government funded website based through the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism which aims to change the drinking culture of college. Their report details how colleges and universities conduct alcohol programs. Publicly funded universities must comply with their standards as stated in their report.
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- Alcohol-related death rates almost double since 1991, news release, United Kingdom Office for National Statistics
- Alcoholism and Problem Drinking, Patient UK
- English 'booze culture' Targeted, BBC News
- Alcohol Statistics Scotland 2005, National Health Service, National Services Scotland
- Alcohol-Drug Education Service