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Voluntary Afterschool Program May Help Reduce Alcohol Use Among Young Teens

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A voluntary afterschool program that teaches middle school students about substance abuse prevention may help reduce alcohol use, according to a new study.

The study evaluated a program called CHOICE, which includes five 30-minute sessions designed to be non-confrontational and non-judgmental, Science Daily reports. The program challenges unrealistic beliefs about substance abuse, dispels myths about the prevalence of alcohol use, gives teens ideas about how to resist pressure to use substances, and teaches them about the benefits of reducing or stopping substance use.

The study included 9,528 students at 16 middle schools in Southern California. Half of the schools ran the CHOICE program. The researchers found that at schools where the program was offered, one teen out of 15 was prevented from initiating alcohol use during the school year.

There was a school-wide effect on alcohol use for all students at schools where the program was offered, regardless of whether they attended the program. Students at the eight schools that offered the program were less likely to start drinking compared with those at the schools that did not.

The researchers acknowledged the results of the study were modest. “But our findings suggest that adolescents will voluntarily attend an after-school program that specifically provides information on alcohol and drugs, and that this type of program can reduce alcohol use at the school level. This study is the next step in understanding how voluntary after-school programs can help younger adolescents make healthier choices,” lead researcher Elizabeth D’Amico of RAND, a nonprofit research organization, said in a news release.

The article appears in the journal Prevention Science.

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