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It Pays to Talk to Your Teen About Alcohol

Even brief family intervention programs designed to discourage teens from taking up alcohol use appear to pay off, not only in the teen's personal welfare, but in the saved cost to society, according to a new study.

Researchers with Iowa State University made the conclusion after evaluating the outcomes of 478 families with sixth-grade children from 33 rural schools in comparative programs over the course of four years.

The families were randomly assigned to one of two intervention groups, or a control group with no intervention.

Both intervention programs focused on similar goals of intervening at critical points of transition into early adolescence, promoting parent-child bonding, encouraging effective family functioning, and building the child's defenses against peer influences.

Following the programs, the researchers found that between the ages of 13 and 16, the adolescents in the intervention programs had lower rates of starting to use alcohol than those in the control group and were statistically less likely to later develop problems with alcohol use in adulthood.

The researchers then tallied potential costs to society for a single case of adult alcohol abuse and came up with the conservative estimate of $119,633.

In balancing that figure with the cost of the programs, the researchers concluded that the seven-week ISFP program saved $9.60 in future costs for each dollar invested and the five-week PDFY program yielded a benefit-cost ratio of $5.85 for each dollar invested.

The research, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Mental Health.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol abuse as recently as 1998 cost the nation a stunning total of $185 billion.

More information

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has excellent information on a site it calls The Cool Spot.

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