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Addiction. 1999 Mar;94(3):357-69.

Alcohol policy and the young adult: establishing priorities, building partnerships, overcoming barriers.

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Marin Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems, San Rafael, California 94901, USA.


Young adults (defined here as those 18-29 years of age) in the United States and Canada constitute a demographic group most likely to suffer serious alcohol problems, yet the alcohol policy field has made little effort to develop prevention strategies that respond specifically to their circumstances and needs. This paper briefly reviews relevant research, analyzes prevention policy priorities, presents the barriers to implementation and outlines strategies for overcoming them. Its main conclusions are: (1) Strategies to reduce alcohol availability and increase alcohol prices will significantly reduce alcohol problems among young adults. (2) A high priority should be given to harm reduction strategies and strategies that target the physical environments where young adults are likely to congregate. (3) The alcohol industries and the industries' allies will vigorously oppose these policy reforms, and their resistance constitutes a formidable barrier to implementation. (4) Resistance from other community institutions, which may benefit from the status quo, is an additional barrier that must be addressed. (5) There is a tendency to compromise with the alcohol industries and others and substitute individual-based prevention strategies for public policy reforms. Individual-based strategies complement public policy reforms but should not replace them. (6) Overcoming barriers will require community organizing, coalition building, media advocacy and policy advocacy and an expanded research effort. The field needs to develop new messages and themes in both media and policy advocacy that address the specific concerns and interests of young adults, thereby encouraging their active leadership in prevention policy development.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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