March 21, 2018
2 min read

Early intervention reduces likelihood of alcohol misuse, abuse in Latino teens

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A family-focused, substance abuse prevention intervention conducted in middle school reduced the likelihood of alcohol use disorders among Mexican American teenagers 5 years later, research published in JAMA Psychiatry showed.

“... Effects on [alcohol use disorders] are rarely reported for universal middle school interventions. Thus, the role of middle school [evidence-based interventions] in preventing addiction remains in question,” Nancy A. Gonzales, PhD, department of psychology and REACH Institute, Arizona State University, and colleagues wrote. “Our Mexican American focus is important because several population studies show that Latino adolescents are a high-risk group for alcohol use in the United States, and adolescents of Mexican descent report elevated rates relative to other racial/ethnic groups.”

Researchers examined the effects of a universal middle school prevention program on the frequency of alcohol misuse and rates of alcohol use disorder 5 years after implementation among Mexican American adolescents. In this follow-up study, the investigators reported data from a randomized clinical trial that assessed a combined parent and child evidence-based intervention to determine lifetime alcohol use disorder 5 years later — when the child was in 12th grade — as well as past-year frequency of alcohol use, binge drinking and drunkenness.

They randomly allocated three annual cohorts of families to receive either a nine-session, family-focused group intervention — delivered in the spring semester at each school and separated into groups for English- vs. Spanish-dominant families — or a workshop control condition, which was offered during the same semester at each school in both English and Spanish. In total, 420 teenagers of the 516 7th graders enrolled in the previous study were included in this follow-up study.

Gonzales and colleagues found that the family-based intervention conducted in middle school decreased the likelihood of having an alcohol use disorder compared with the control condition (OR= 0.39; 95% CI, 0.16-0.99; P = .047). Youth in the control group were about 2.5 times more likely to experience lifetime alcohol use disorder 5 years after the intervention than those in the intervention group, with 8.6% of control group participants vs. 3.9% of intervention participants qualifying for a diagnosis.

Substance use at baseline moderated the intervention associations with past-year frequency of alcohol use, binge drinking and drunkenness. Notably, youth in the intervention group who reported substance use at baseline had lower frequency of alcohol use (P = .04) and drunkenness (P = .049).

“Because even moderate reductions in adolescent drinking and [alcohol use disorders] have the potential to reduce multiple other short- and long-term public health harms, these findings argue for broad implementation,” the authors wrote. “Future efforts are needed to develop the capacity and infrastructure of communities and schools to adopt and sustain culturally competent interventions ... at scale and to ensure access for U.S. Latinos who stand to benefit significantly from integrated efforts to simultaneously reduce alcohol and educational disparities.” – by Savannah Demko

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.