November 15, 2022

New Award to Help Prevent Adolescent Alcohol Use

Funds awarded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute 

To help test the effectiveness of a novel technology-driven program, multiple PIs and U-M Addiction Center faculty Maureen Walton, M.P.H., Ph.D., and Erin  Bonar, Ph.D., have been approved for a 5-year funding award by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to study brief interventions for adolescent alcohol use.

Alcohol use among adolescents is a public health priority warranting prevention approaches. Youth who begin drinking and misusing alcohol at younger ages are at greater risk for negative long-term outcomes, such as injuries, lower achievement in life or education, and development of an alcohol use disorder (i.e., addiction). Adolescent alcohol use is prevalent in society; according to estimates from the past several years, 7 percent to 34 percent of adolescents ages 12-17 report past-month alcohol use and 3 percent to 17 percent report past-month binge drinking.

Early interventions are critically important to preventing the development of alcohol use disorder and ensuring that adolescents have healthy development into adulthood. Researchers have developed programs delivered to adolescents as part of health care that have helped to reduce alcohol misuse; however, it’s necessary that programs be easily implemented for widespread use. Technology-based programs are promising to address this gap because they limit clinical workload and can be delivered remotely.

This study will recruit 1,400 adolescents who will be randomly assigned one of two groups. One group will receive an interactive computer program and the other group will receive the same program in addition to supportive text messages. For both groups, parents or caregivers are enrolled and prompted to use an app to guide them through strategies for talking to their youth about alcohol and drug misuse. The computer program was previously developed with stakeholder input and its efficacy was originally reported in a paper published in Pediatrics lead by Rebecca Cunningham, M.D. and Dr. Walton. The research team will follow up with participants and their parents/caregivers several times over a 12-month period to see the impact of the programs on drinking behaviors and outcomes important to youth and parent/caregivers, such as use of other substances, alcohol-related injuries, non-fatal overdose, academic performance, etc. Importantly, the study will also engage community partners throughout the study, including adolescents and parent/caregivers.

Drs. Walton and Bonar shared that they “are excited to partner with youth, families, and the health system to conduct this study and help adolescents avoid problems from early alcohol misuse, enhancing short- and long-term health outcomes.” Study findings may also help health systems decide which programs to offer their adolescent patients/families to help prevent problems related to alcohol misuse. The MPIs are also members of the Injury Prevention Center and the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation. The study team includes other U-M faculty including Jason Goldstick, Ph.D. from Emergency Medicine and the School of Public Health and Ken Resnicow, Ph.D. from the Center for Health Communications Research and School of Public Health, as well as faculty who are active clinicians involved in patient care, Joanna Quigley, M.D. from Psychiatry and Susan Woolford, M.P.H, M.D. from the Susan B. Meister Child Health Evaluation and Research Center, Department of Pediatrics.

Selected through PCORI funding, the announcement focused on comparative clinical effectiveness research that compares brief interventions delivered in primary care or school settings focusing on prevention of adolescent alcohol use and misuse.

“This study was selected for PCORI funding for its potential to answer the need for real-world evidence to enable optimal use of brief interventions to reduce and prevent alcohol use among adolescents,” said PCORI Executive Director Nakela L. Cook, M.D., M.P.H. “We look forward to following the study’s progress and working with the University of Michigan to share the results.”   

This award has been approved pending completion of a business and programmatic review by PCORI staff and issuance of a formal award contract. 

PCORI is an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 2010. Its mission is to fund research that will provide patients, their caregivers and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better informed healthcare decisions. For more information about PCORI’s funding, visit    

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