Which Alcohol Control Strategies Appeal to Young People?

Alcohol control strategies are techniques and approaches used to limit the risks for involvement in patterns of drinking that significantly boost exposure to serious alcohol-related harm. The individual can implement some of these strategies, while others come from governments, public health organizations or other private or public institutions. In a study published in 2014 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review, a team of British researchers examined the attitudes that young adults and teenagers maintain toward alcohol control strategies. Specifically, they wanted to know which strategies young people think might help reduce one’s risk for drinking problems.

Individual Strategies

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) lists a number of strategies you can use to avoid the risks for serious alcohol-related problems or to diminish the damaging impact of your current pattern of drinking. These strategies include keeping a record of how much you drink per day or per week, comparing the serving sizes of alcohol you regularly consume to the standard serving sizes used to accurately track alcohol-related risk, avoiding any known drinking cues that increase your odds of consuming alcohol, devising methods to cope with drinking cravings you experience, deciding in advance how much alcohol you’ll consume and sticking to your decision, developing the willingness to decline invitations to consume alcohol, pacing yourself during drinking sessions, and avoiding drinking when you haven’t eaten substantial amounts of food. The NIAAA recommends that people who want to control their alcohol intake try just a few strategies at a time, identify and keep strategies that work and try out new strategies if a current approach fails to produce the desired results. Individuals who don’t find success after a couple of months may need additional help from a doctor or a health professional who specializes in alcohol problems.

Institutional Strategies

Governments can implement alcohol control strategies such as drinking laws that prohibit consumption below a certain age, local or state ordinances that limit the times of day when alcohol can be sold or purchased, and monitoring programs that track compliance with alcohol-related statutes. Public health organizations, colleges and universities can do such things as implement educational campaigns designed to promote safe drinking or collaborate on such campaigns with government agencies. Businesses can do such things as make sure they follow all alcohol-related laws and promote safe drinking practices among their employees. Other institutions that can contribute to effective alcohol control strategies include nonprofit foundations, insurance companies and healthcare organizations.

What Do Young People Think?

In the study published in Drug and Alcohol Review, researchers from the National Health Service, the University of Sussex and three other British institutions used questionnaire information gathered from 1,418 people between the ages of 16 and 21 to determine which alcohol control strategies appeal to young adults and teenagers. The researchers used the same process to gather information on a variety of factors known to directly or indirectly influence any person’s chances of developing diagnosable drinking problems. Examples of these factors include beliefs about the pros and cons of drinking prior to alcohol consumption, relative level of involvement in impulsive behavior, relative level of involvement in sensation-seeking behavior, relative belief in the personal ability to decline a drink, perceptions of how much alcohol is consumed within one’s peer group and the scores obtained on a screening test for alcohol use disorder (alcoholism/alcohol abuse) called AUDIT. The study participants identified three strategies as being the most likely to help control at-risk alcohol intake: strict adherence to laws that govern when and how alcohol can be served, close regulation of bars and other establishments that sell alcohol late at night and programs or public health campaigns that provide instruction on how to successfully decline offers to consume alcohol. The researchers concluded that three groups of young people are particularly likely to think that alcohol control strategies work: individuals in their early 20s, individuals who drink relatively small amounts of alcohol and individuals who have relatively negative expectations about the effects of drinking. Based on their findings, the study’s authors believe that public health organizations and other institutions interested in communicating the usefulness of alcohol intake control to young people may benefit from tailoring their approaches to these individuals’ drinking-related perceptions. However, they also note that effective strategies used to reach young people don’t necessarily depend on popularity for their beneficial effect.

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