Overview of evidence

Table 11 provides an overview of the efficacy of a range of interventions to prevent or reduce alcohol-related harm across the life course, ranging from universal interventions to those which are selective or targeted according to the level of risk or alcohol-related harm. Evidence suggests that a positive focus on encouraging lower risk drinking, rather than discouraging higher risk drinking, is more likely to be effective in encouraging healthier behaviour. 1

When delivered alongside interventions that equip people with the skills and resilience needed to avoid developing harmful use, the provision of accurate and relevant information can help reduce harm and inform the choices people make about alcohol. 2 This includes prevention activities delivered through a range of programmes and in a variety of settings (e.g. at home, in school, among peers, in the workplace, throughout the local community and in the media), as well as whole population approaches. 3

Table 11: Efficacy of interventions to prevent/reduce alcohol-related harm across the life course

Prenatal & infancy Early Childhood Middle Childhood Early adolescence Adolescence Adulthood
Family Prenatal and infancy visitation (selective) ** Parenting skills (universal & selective) ****
Interventions for pregnant women substance misusers (selective) *
School Early childhood education (selective) **** Personal & social skills (universal) *** Prevention education based on personal & social influences (universal & selective)***
Classroom management (universal) *** School policies and culture (universal) **
Policies to keep children in school (selective) **
Addressing individual vulnerabilities (indicated) **
Community Alcohol & tobacco policies (universal) *****
Community-based multi-component initiatives (universal & selective) ***
Media campaigns (universal & selective) *
Mentoring (selective) *
Entertainment venues (universal) **
Workplace prevention (universal, selective & indicated) ***
Brief intervention (indicated) ****

Source: UNDOC prevention standards. Public Health England [33]

Notes: Assessment of efficacy: * limited / ** adequate / ***good / **** very good / ***** excellent

Definitions: ‘indicated’ means aimed at people who are already using substances; ‘selective’  interventions serve specific sub-populations (individuals, groups, families and communities) whose risk of substance misuse is known to be higher than average; ‘universal’ approaches address an entire population


  1. B. Earp and e. al, “No sign of quitting: incidental exposure to “no smoking” signs ironically boosts cigarette-approach tendencies in smokers,” Journal of Applied Social Psychology, vol. 43 (10), no. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jasp.12202/full, p. 2158–2162, 2013.
  2. Public Health England, “The international evidence on prevention of drug and alcohol misuse,” 2015. [Online]. Available: http://www.nta.nhs.uk/uploads/unodc-prevention-guide.pdf. [Accessed 15 August 2016].
  3. NICE , “LGB6 Alcohol,” 2012. [Online]. Available: https://www.nice.org.uk/advice/lgb6/chapter/What-can-local-authorities-achieve-by-tackling-alcohol-misuse. [Accessed 15 August 2016].