|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)|
Alcohol education is the planned provision of information and skills relevant to living in a world where alcohol is commonly misused. The World Health Organisations (WHO) Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health, highlights the fact that alcohol will be a larger problem in later years, with estimates suggesting it will be the leading cause of disability and death. Informing people on alcohol and harmful drinking should become a priority.
- 1 History in the United States
- 2 History in Australia
- 3 School-based programs in Australia
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
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
Kindergarten to 12th grade
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.
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. AlcoholEdu's purpose is to change or influence how college students feel about drinking, as well as educate students on the harmful and negative risks associated with heavy consumption of alcohol by presenting students with realistic case studies to influence students not to over consume.
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.
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.
Protecting youth and keeping them safe from harm has to be a goal of any alcohol education program. Such programs need to:
- Provide accurate, truthful and unbiased information about alcohol and its consumption.
- Distinguish between abuse and use of alcohol.
- Teach the possible consequences of underage purchase, possession and/or consumption of alcoholic beverages under the legal age.
- Teach effective ways to reduce the potential threat/harm that can be a result from the abuse of alcohol.
History in Australia
In Australia teenage alcohol use is a growing problem, in 2011 74% of Australian students aged between 12 and 17 had tried alcohol in the past year, and in 2010 a study showed that 31% of 16-17 year old students had consumed more than 20 standard drinks in one session. Every year, 5,500 people in Australia die, and around 157,000 are hospitalised from directly drinking alcohol. 400 more lives are lost from alcohol-related assaults. It is costing the country around $36 billion annually. The Australian Government has set up various organisations and campaigns to try and tackle the rise in teenage drinking, reduce the amount deaths and injuries that occur, as well as informing people of the adverse affects that can result from binge drinking.
DrinkWise Australia is the most prominent organization in Australia aimed at educating the public on alcohol use, mainly focused on teenagers. Their recent campaign urging school leavers to drink responsibly (titled "How to Drink Properly") is believed to have been successful. One in three 18- to 24-year-olds who saw the campaign said they reduced their drinking on a night out, and just over half of young adults said the campaign helped them discuss their drinking habits. The campaign won a Silver Spike award at the 2014 Spike Asia awards.
Current methods in schools for educating about alcohol include:
- Using an approach relating to social influence
- Involve parental participation and work on building connections in the community
- Focus on interacting highly with students for a hands on delivery
There are four main types of alcohol education programs used in Australia
- School-based (classroom or whole school)
- Combination (of school- and community-based programs)
This website  from the Australian Government Department of Health gives relative information regarding alcohol related health issues, and also provides the policies from the government. The resource is helpful to Australians of all ages, and is extremely accessible.
Information available from the main site include:
- National Alcohol Strategy 2006-2011
- Australian Alcohol Guidelines
- Alcohol resources and publications
- National binge drinking strategies
- Women want to know (information regarding alcohol and pregnancy)
Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE)
FARE  is an, "independent, non-profit organisation working to stop the harm caused by alcohol." It too is trying to prevent the growing alcohol problem in Australian communities.
The FARE Strategic Plan lists the 5 goals for 2014 to 2017, with the aim to reduce harms to individuals and the costs to communities.
- World-leading research: to undertake and communicate strategic research.
- Strategic policy and advocacy: develop and advocate for policies and programs that work.
- Working together: mobilise communities and organisations to work collectively.
- Defending the public interest: promote open decision making and hold the alcohol industry to account.
- Leading change: build an enduring world-class organisation that effects health and social change.
The Funding Structure
The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), has set up a Capital Fund to support their own work in assisting communities and their strategic policy priorities.
School-based programs in Australia
Australian States each have different programs set up by their state governments aimed at high school students as well as multiple studies to research the effect that school-based education had on drinking habits.
Western Australia's Commissioner for Children and Young People (CCYP) sought out how teenagers aged 14–17 view alcohol and the negative consequences that could result from consuming it as well as knowledge about standard drinks and the national alcoholic guidelines in 2011. The CCYP also promoted two programs - SDERA (School Drug Education and Road Awareness) and SHAHRP (School Health and Alcohol Harm Reduction Project) - to educate the high school students about prevention and reduction of alcohol induced harm. SDERA targeted prevention and was taught as part of the health and physical education curriculum in WA, whereas SHAHRP targeted the reducing possible harm and was conducted by the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University.
Victorian Department of Education and Training implemented the 'Get Ready' program in 2012. The program was aimed at students in years 7-9 and taught students about drug and alcohol risks.
Similarly, Queensland's Department of Education, Training and Employment worked with their Curriculum and Assessment Authority to create their education program 'Alcohol and other drugs education program.' The program addresses alcohol and drugs through the health and physical education curriculum and is aimed at high school student in years 7-12. The program works alongside the 'safe night out strategy' which is about violence caused by drugs and alcohol.
Similar to The foundation for alcohol research and Education, Alcohol Education Trust (AET), have a main goal of helping adolescents enter adulthood with a healthy relationship with alcohol.
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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