A family-focused middle school intervention can help reduce alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorders (AUD) in Mexican American adolescents who are at heightened risk for problem drinking, according to Nancy A. Gonzales, PhD, and her associates.

The report was published March 21 in JAMA Psychiatry .

The investigators examined 5-year follow-up results of a randomized controlled trial, Bridges/Puentes , a 9-week, evidence-based intervention aimed at helping urban, low-income Mexican American teens succeed at school. Among other features, the Bridges/Puentes intervention promoted cultural strengths that had been identified in previous interventions aimed at Latino youth.

“This blend of evidence-based practices and good recruitment rates, retention, and fidelity provided a strong foundation for testing the sustained results of middle school prevention for Latinos,” wrote Dr. Gonzales of the department of psychology and the REACH Institute at Arizona State University, Tempe, and her associates.

The research team assessed the impact of the Bridges/Puentes intervention by evaluating 420 children. They found that participants in the control group were approximately 2.5 times more likely to experience a lifetime AUD by the 5-year mark than were Bridges/Puentes intervention participants (odds ratio, 0.39). Twelve of 139 control group participants (8.6%) and 10 of 254 intervention participants (3.9%) qualified for a diagnosis. In addition, Dr. Gonzales and coauthors found that the intervention was associated with less frequent alcohol use (P = .04) and drunkenness (P = .049) after 5 years.

The study’s focus on Mexican American youth, which makes it difficult to generalize the results to other populations, was a limitation, the authors noted. Nevertheless, the intervention “is a viable method to not only reduce substance use initiation in the short-term … but also to reduce later rates of AUDs and alcohol misuse among Mexican American adolescents at heightened risk for problem drinking,” they wrote.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. No conflicts of interest were reported.

SOURCE: Gonzales NA et al. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.0058 .