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Keywords:

  • Alcohol;
  • cannabis;
  • drug education;
  • harm-minimization;
  • internet;
  • prevention;
  • school-based

ABSTRACT

Aims  To establish the long-term efficacy of a universal internet-based alcohol and cannabis prevention programme in schools.

Methods  A cluster-randomized controlled trial was conducted to assess the effectiveness of the Climate Schools: Alcohol and Cannabis Course. The evidence-based course, aimed at reducing alcohol and cannabis use, is facilitated by the internet and consists of 12 novel and curriculum consistent lessons delivered over 6 months.

Participants  A total of 764 year 8 students (13 years) from 10 Australian secondary schools were allocated randomly to the internet-based prevention programme (n = 397, five schools), or to their usual health classes (n = 367, five schools).

Measures  Participants were assessed at baseline, immediately post, and 6 and 12 months following completion of the intervention, on measures of alcohol and cannabis knowledge, attitudes, use and related harms.

Results  This paper reports the final results of the intervention trial, 12 months following the completion of the Climate Schools: Alcohol and Cannabis Course. The effectiveness of the course 6 months following the intervention has been reported previously. At the 12-month follow-up, compared to the control group, students in the intervention group showed significant improvements in alcohol and cannabis knowledge, a reduction in average weekly alcohol consumption and a reduction in frequency of drinking to excess. No differences between groups were found on alcohol expectancies, cannabis attitudes or alcohol- and cannabis-related harms. The course was found to be acceptable by teachers and students as a means of delivering drug education in schools.

Conclusions  Internet-based prevention programs for school-age children can improve student's knowledge about alcohol and cannabis, and may also reduce alcohol use twelve months after completion.