Alcohol Prevention: What Can Be Expected of a Harm Reduction Focused School Drug Education Program?

Document Type

Journal Article


Informa Healthcare


Faculty of Education and Arts


Office of Associate Dean, Research and Higher Degrees (FEA)




Midford, R., Cahill, H., Ramsden, R., Davenport, G., Venning, L., Lester, L. , Murphy, B., & Pose , M. (2011). Alcohol prevention: What can be expected of a harm reduction focused school drug education program? Drugs; Education, Prevention and Policy, 19(2), 102-110. Available here


Aim: This pilot study investigated what alcohol prevention benefits could be achieved by a harm reduction focused school drug education intervention that addressed all drug use, both licit and illicit. Method: The study population comprised a cohort of 225 students in three intervention secondary schools and 93 students in a matched control school in Victoria, Australia. A classroom drug education programme, derived from evidence of effective practice and designed to reduce alcohol and other drug harm, was provided to the intervention students during years eight (13–14 year olds) and nine (14–15 year olds) by teachers trained in its delivery. The control students received the drug education programme normally provided by their school. Findings: The students, who received the intervention, were more knowledgeable about drug use issues, communicated more with their parents about alcohol, drank less, got drunk less, and experienced fewer alcohol related harms. They also remembered receiving more alcohol lessons. They were, however, no less likely to have tried alcohol. Conclusions: The findings are consistent with other studies that have demonstrated school alcohol education that focuses on harm reduction can be effective in reducing consumption, risk and harm. In this study, this was achieved even though the students were not persuaded against taking up drinking, and the intervention did not focus solely on alcohol. These findings have implications for both the goals and coverage of future school drug education programmes.