Can Brief Alcohol Interventions for Youth Also Address Concurrent Illicit Drug Use? Results from a Meta-analysis

Emily E. Tanner-Smith, Katarzyna T. Steinka-Fry, Emily A. Hennessy, Mark W. Lipsey, Ken C. Winters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Brief interventions aimed at reducing alcohol use among youth may interrupt a possible developmental progression to more serious substance use if they can also affect the use of other illicit drugs. This meta-analysis examined the findings of recent research on the effects of brief alcohol interventions for adolescents and young adults on both alcohol and illicit drug use. Eligible studies were those using randomized or controlled quasi-experimental designs to examine the effects of brief alcohol interventions on illicit drug use outcomes among youth. A comprehensive literature search identified 30 eligible study samples that, on average, included participants age 17, with 57 % male participants and 56 % White youth. Three-level random-effects meta-analyses were used to estimate mean effect sizes and explore variability in effects. Overall, brief interventions targeting both alcohol and other drugs were effective in reducing both of these substances. However, the brief interventions that targeted only alcohol had no significant secondary effects on untargeted illicit drug use. The evidence from current research, therefore, shows modest beneficial effects on outcomes that are targeted by brief interventions for youth, but does not show that those effects generalize to untargeted illicit drug use outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1011-1023
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Alcohol use
  • Brief intervention
  • Drug use
  • Meta-analysis
  • Systematic review


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