History of Alcohol Literacy Challenge

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The Alcohol Literacy Challenge blends Media Literacy Education and Alcohol Expectancy Theory. Media Literacy is now considered to be an essential educational component. But, it wasn’t back in 1999 when Dr. Peter DeBenedittis first started doing Tobacco Prevention work, educating youth as to how they were being manipulated by Tobacco Advertisers. By 2005 he had created the Alcohol Literacy Challenge, doing Media Literacy for Alcohol Prevention. We have Dr. Peter D. and his work nationally to thank for Media Literacy being so universally accepted.

In 1999 Peter D. began integrating Alcohol Expectancy Theory into his prevention program. Expectancy Theory came about in the 1960’s with the work of Dr. Allen Marlit. Marlit created a bar lab on campus and invited students of drinking age to come be part of an experiment about “social interactions in a bar”. While they were all told, they were drinking beer, half the students got real beer, the other half got non-alcoholic beer, and all of them got drunk. The students experienced that the effects they were feeling were mental effects, not physical effects of alcohol. In fact, the students who acted the wildest and had the most fun got the non-alcoholic beer. The follow-up studies with those students is that they immediately drank less when they drank and less often, and this held true even in follow-up studies 10 years later.

The question became, can the same experience happen, without the bar lab, so that underage youth can benefit from this knowledge? Peter D’s current course, the Alcohol Literacy Challenge, known affectionately as the ALC, integrated the bar lab experience via video. It also teaches brain science, to help students understand how the brain creates mental effects that feel just as real as physical effects.

The ALC has been rated highly by SAMHSA. NREPP considers Expectancy Theory as a recommended Tier 1 for alcohol prevention programs. There are now 6 studies showing that the Alcohol Literacy Challenge did successfully incorporate Expectancy Theory, and an “experience” of a bar lab, without having to participate at one. Results of these studies show students drink less across six categories. None of these studies go out more than 3 months, but a 6-month study is currently underway.

The ALC is currently the only NREPP reviewed program that utilizes both media literacy and alcohol expectancies. It packs these powerful results in a program which takes only 50-90 minutes depending on which version of the Alcohol Literacy Challenge you use. There are version appropriate editions for 5th/6th Grade, 7th/8th Grade, 9th-12th Grade, and College.

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