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Keywords:

  • Alcohol;
  • harm;
  • intervention;
  • review;
  • risk;
  • young people;
  • youth

ABSTRACT

Aims  This review identified published studies evaluating interventions delivered outside educational settings, designed for young people with existing alcohol use problems, or who participate in behaviour that places them at high risk of alcohol-related harm, critiqued their methodology and identified opportunities for new interventions.

Methods  A systematic search of the peer-reviewed literature interrogated 10 electronic databases using specific search strings, limited to 2005–09. No additional studies were found by a librarian searching other collections and clearing-houses, or by hand-searching review paper reference lists. The 1697 articles identified were reviewed against criteria from the Dictionary for the Effective Public Health Practice Project Quality Assessment Tool for Quantitative Studies.

Results  The methodological quality of existing studies is variable, and needs to be both more rigorous and more consistent. Particular problems include the lack of blinding outcome assessors, a reliance solely on self-report measures, highly variable consent and follow-up rates, infrequent use of intention-to-treat analyses and the absence of any economic or cost analyses. The range of interventions evaluated is currently limited to individually focused approaches, almost exclusively implemented in the United States.

Conclusions  There is a great need for more intervention trials for young people at high risk of experiencing alcohol-related harm that are both methodologically rigorous and have a broader community focus, to complement the psychological interventions that currently dominate the relevant literature. Such trials would improve outcomes for high-risk young people themselves and would improve the evidence base, both in their own right and by facilitating future meta-analyses.