Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

More Evidence on Effective Alcohol Education

The people at the Australian National Drug Institute have been in touch about the SHARHP project which is looking at school based education as a way of reducing the harm caused by alcohol.

I’ve put their overview of the project below, but wanted to highlight their key finding:

Over the period of the study (from baseline to final follow-up 32 months later), students who participated in the SHAHRP program had a 10% greater alcohol related knowledge, consumed 20% less alcohol, were 19.5% less likely to drink to harmful or hazardous levels, experienced 33% less harm associated with their own use of alcohol and 10% less harm associated with other peoples use of alcohol than did the control group.

There’s quite a lot of information on the website about the research and they have made the teachers’ manual and student workbooks available for download.

The School Health and Alcohol Harm Reduction Project

National Drug Research Institute, Perth, Western Australia

The School Health and Alcohol Harm Reduction Project (SHAHRP study) is a longitudinal intervention research study that uses evidence-based, classroom alcohol education lessons to reduce alcohol-related harm in young people. The critical evidence-based features of the SHAHRP intervention were drawn from a range of health and drug education program and research literature, and in particular, published evaluation studies and research that demonstrated some potential for behaviour change in the target population.

The SHAHRP study is a harm minimisation study. It combines thirteen harm minimisation classroom lessons, over a two year period, with longitudinal measures of alcohol-related harm to assess change in the study students alcohol-related experiences. The SHAHRP lessons assist students by enhancing their ability to identify and use strategies that will reduce the potential for harm in drinking situations and that will assist in reducing the impact of harm once it has occurred. Student outcomes were assessed at eight, 20 and 32 month after baseline


There were significant knowledge, attitude and behavioural effects early in the study, some of which were maintained for the duration of the study. The intervention group had significantly greater knowledge during the program phases, and significantly safer alcohol related attitudes to final follow-up, but both scores were converging by 32 months, 17 months after program implementation. Intervention students were significantly more likely to be non-drinkers or supervised drinkers than were comparison students. During the first and second program phases, intervention students consumed 31.4% and 31.7% less alcohol. Differences were converging 17 months after program delivery. Intervention students were 25.7%, 33.8% and 4.2% less likely to drink to risky levels from first follow-up onwards. The intervention reduced harm that young people reported associated with their own use of alcohol, with intervention students experiencing 32.7%, 16.7% and 22.9% less harm from first follow-up onwards. There was no impact on the harm that students reported from other people’s use of alcohol.

The SHAHRP results indicate that a program developed to reduce the harm that young people experience from their own and other people’s use of alcohol can have an immediate effect in achieving this aim with a series of classroom-based lessons. Over the period of the study (from baseline to final follow-up 32 months later), students who participated in the SHAHRP program had a 10% greater alcohol related knowledge, consumed 20% less alcohol, were 19.5% less likely to drink to harmful or hazardous levels, experienced 33% less harm associated with their own use of alcohol and 10% less harm associated with other peoples use of alcohol than did the control group. These findings are important given that school based drug education is often criticised for not impacting on young people’s behaviour. In addition, consumption and delayed use behavioural effect rival successful absence based programs.

To maximise effectiveness when using the SHAHRP program it is important to teach the program as closely as possible to how it is documented in the teacher manual. The student change that came about in the main study was based on teaching the program to at least 80% as documented. The study teachers also received training in the delivery of the program to students. Two days of training were conducted for phase one, one day of training for phase two. The training involved an overview of the research background and program development. In addition, teachers participated in each activity to model how the activity should be done and allowed teachers to assess implementation and management requirements.

These results indicate that a relatively brief classroom alcohol intervention, that has a basis in evidence, can produce change in young peoples alcohol related behaviours, particularly the harm associated with their own use of alcohol. Some of the key evidence based components seem to be: ensuring that lesson content and scenarios are based on the experiences of young people, testing the intervention prior to implementation, offering ‘booster’ sessions in subsequent years, providing interactive activities, providing teacher training and adopting a harm minimisation approach in both the intervention and in the measures of change.

If teachers are trained to implement the SHAHRP lessons then the cost of the SHAHRP program is approximately Au$24 per student over two years. These costs include three days of trainer preparation, two days of trainer payment to conduct the workshop, teacher release payments, venue hire and catering and the printing of teacher manuals and student workbooks. If trained teachers continue to teach SHAHRP then the cost is reduced to Au$5.20 per student over two years.

The classroom format of SHAHRP and the cost makes the program easier for schools to implement than more comprehensive school/community approaches. Schools can also undertake the program without extensive reliance on outside group assistance or funding.


Control School Alcohol Education

Control students were not isolated from alcohol education during the period of the study. Students in each control school participated in alcohol education classes during the second phase of the study as part of each school’s regular health education program. Generally these alcohol education classes did not go beyond one term (10 weeks) with most of the control schools providing less than one term of alcohol education. A range of resources were used to generate alcohol education lessons in control schools including the Western Australian K-10 health education curriculum alcohol education support materials, ‘Rethinking Drinking’ resource (harm minimisation), ‘How Will You Feel Tomorrow’ resource (harm minimisation), and School Drug Education Project pilot lessons. Several schools used a combination of lessons and activities from a number of sources. The following Table provides a summary of the resources used by control schools in their alcohol education of students. It should be noted that control students participation in alcohol education during the period of the study would likely lessen the impact of the SHAHRP intervention.

Resource Control Schools using this resource/s
K-10 health education


Combination of K-10 and some Rethinking Drinking activities


Rethinking Drinking


Combination of K-10, Rethinking Drinking and How Will You Feel Tomorrow activities



Pilot School Drug Education Project lessons


The SHAHRP study was funded by the Western Australian Health Promotion Foundation. Main writer of the classroom lessons was Helen Cahill. Contributing writers were Marg Sheehan and Fiona Farringdon.

For more information about this study contact Nyanda McBride, Senior Investigator, Tel: 9426 4218 (w), n.mcbride@curtin.edu.au, GPO Box U1987 Perth, WA 6845 or access the SHAHRP homepage at: http://www.curtin.edu.au/curtin/centre/ndri/shahrp/


Filed under: alcohol, drug education, International, , ,

8 Responses

  1. HRS says:

    There is currently an ongoing trial of SHAHRP in Belfast schools, conducted by Michael McKay, a YMCA YP practitioner and PhD student at the University of Liverpool.

  2. drugeducationforum says:

    Thanks Harry, it’ll be be interesting to see if it has a similar impact.

  3. […] should be done to curb this misuse of alcohol I can’t say, but perhaps they reference the SHARHP research from Australia or the impact of normative education in the United States.  Maybe the […]

  4. […] the methodology, and then finishes with the following about the SHARHP programme (which we covered here) saying: A good example of a well-designed study is the School Health and Alcohol Harm Reduction […]

  5. […] its attitudes towards alcohol. What we’d want though is to point out that some programmes – SHARHP for example – can change some young people’s behaviour at least while it’s being […]

  6. […] school based harm reduction education programme. (Readers may remember we looked at the programme a little while ago.) In a UK-like youth drinking context, the study has shown that a well-delivered, fairly intensive, […]

  7. […] may recall earlier posts I’ve done on SHAHRP, in particular this one which set out some of their findings and this one which linked to Drug and Alcohol Findings take on […]

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