Tackling risky drinking in adolescents

South LondonMental Health
Start Date: 1 Sep 2015 End Date: 31 Dec 2017

A multi-centre individual-randomised controlled trial of screening and brief alcohol intervention to prevent risky drinking in young people aged 14-15 in a high school setting (SIPS JR-HIGH)

Risky drinking by adolescents is a significant public health problem that is linked to intellectual impairment, increased risk of accidents, injuries, self-harm, unprotected sex, violence and sometimes death. The alcohol research team at CLAHRC South London are involved in two research projects investigating and addressing this problem.  

The first is SIPS Junior (‘Developing and evaluating interventions for adolescent alcohol use disorders presenting through emergency departments’) adopted by the CLAHRC in June 2015. Funded by an NIHR Programme Grant for Applied Health Research, the five-year study started in January 2011. The research team has worked across England and Wales to estimate how many adolescents are drinking in a hazardous or harmful way, and study alcohol-related problems experienced by adolescents who go to accident and emergency departments. The research team has developed an electronic ‘app’ to encourage adolescents to reduce the amount of alcohol they drink and its effectiveness is currently being tested. Adolescents were involved in the development of this electronic intervention. The organisations involved in this research are: Imperial College London; University of Kent; Newcastle University; Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust; South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust; University of South Wales (previously University of Glamorgan); University of Surrey; Swansea University; and Teesside University.

Find out more on the SIPS Junior website.

The second project is SIPS JR-HIGH (a multi-centre individual-randomised controlled trial of screening and brief alcohol intervention to prevent risky drinking in young people aged 14-15 in a high school setting), adopted by the CLAHRC in March 2016. It aims to address a research gap in the UK around early identification and brief intervention at school to reduce risky drinking in young people. The NIHR-funded study involves researchers from five universities, including King’s College London, who will work with young people aged 14-15 who are already drinking at risky levels. The study is led by Dorothy Newbury-Birch, professor of alcohol and public health research at Teesside University.

Advice and education on alcohol will be delivered on a one-to-one basis by school learning mentors, and will include a personalised 30-minute interactive worksheet. The research will test whether these one-to-one sessions encourage young people to reduce their levels of drinking and if they are cost effective. The results from these sessions will be compared with current alcohol education, which is usually delivered to groups in the classroom, regardless of whether young people are drinking or not.    

The study will work with 14-15 year olds at 20 schools in four regions of England – the north-east, north-west, south-east and London. Young people will be identified for the study through a lifestyle questionnaire, the results of which will not be seen by staff at the schools. CLAHRC South London researchers Dr Paolo Deluca and Professor Colin Drummond are managing the London-arm of the study, and are working with young people at five schools in south London. The study is expected to finish in December 2017.

Jane Stafford