Every year an estimated 88,000 Americans die from alcohol-related causes, the third leading preventable cause of death in the country. And the numbers continue to rise. In one recent study, researchers found that, between 2003-2013, drinking on the whole increased by 11%, but even more concerning, high-risk drinking rose by nearly 30%.
If we do nothing, this crisis will only grow. Fortunately, there are many organizations today pursuing solutions. Read the below for a closer look at five initiatives designed to curb the rising rates of alcohol misuse.
1. Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams (START)
As misuse rates continue to rise, more and more children are required to be removed from their parents’ custody because of parental substance misuse. START is a program designed to protect children, and to help families dealing with substance misuse. The program pairs a social worker with a family member, offering peer support, intensive treatment, and child welfare programs. The program aims to keep families together when possible and appropriate, to keep children safe, and to help parents achieve sobriety.
The results have been very encouraging. Studies have shown that mothers in START achieve sobriety at 1.8 times the rate of typical treatment, and that children were placed into state custody at half the expected rate.
Studies estimate that the US could save 800 lives every year if drivers already convicted of driving under the influence could be prevented from being involved in subsequent, fatal collisions. This is where mandatory ignition interlocks enter into the picture. A mandatory ignition interlock is, essentially, a breathalyzer connected to the ignition of a vehicle, which requires the operator of the vehicle to pass a breath-alcohol concentration test in order to start the engine. In all 50 states there are now laws permitting mandatory ignition interlocks to be used as alternate sentencing options for driver’s convicted of DWI. In some states, repeated failures to pass the ignition interlock device results in the extension of the sentencing. To a lesser extent, in other states, repeated ignition interlock failures will trigger mandatory attendance at substance misuse treatment programs.
Studies have shown that mandatory ignition interlocks are making a difference. Ignition interlocks were recently found to be associated with a 7% decrease in alcohol-related fatal collisions.
Communities that Care, often abbreviated to CTC, is a five-phase program that employs a systemic approach to community building in order to prevent substance misuse problems in youth early on—before the problems develop into catastrophes. The program helps communities assess their risk predictors, design outcome-focused community action plans accordingly, collect the right data, and, ultimately, reduce substance use and other behavioral problems in youth.
The program uses a community-wide, public health approach to protect the healthiness of the entire community, and it’s working. Research has shown that the program leads to better youth outcomes, even much down the line, including increased rates of high school graduation, better economic outcomes, better mental health, much-reduced rates of STDs, and a reduction in teen pregnancies.
Strong African American Families, or SAAF, is a program designed to help rural black families with one or more children at the cusp of adolescence (ages 10-14, typically). Specifically, the program aims to prevent the children of target families from engaging in high-risk behaviors, including alcohol and drug use, as well as cigarette use and sexual activity. SAAF is a short program consisting of seven consecutive weekly sessions. In these sessions, enrolled families first join and have a meal together. Following the meal, the families are divided into parent and child groups for discussion, and are then reunited to discuss further in a final whole-group meeting. In these sessions, families focus on effective parenting strategies, teaching children positive coping strategies to deal with stress and adversity, and helping children appreciate and listen to their parents.
Studies have shown that the program helps curb alcohol use in enrolled youth, both immediately after the program, and into the future. After a 65-month assessment, participants of the SAAF program reported drinking half the amount of alcohol as compared to the control group.
BASICS is a harm-reduction program designed to help college-aged people make better, and more informed decision about alcohol use. The program dispels common and inaccurate norms about alcohol, and uses a style of empathy, rather than judgement, in brief, limited interventions to encourage behavioral changes in heavy-drinking students during the early years of college. BASICS consists of just two 50-minute interview sessions.
Students are responding very well to the program, favoring it over other intervention programs. The results show that BASICS leads to both a significant reduction in alcohol use and in alcohol-related problems.