IBA for young people: a promising picture?

12 Aug

A common question about IBA is ‘does it work for young people?’ – and a straightforward answer isn’t easy, though we are getting closer. Recently two new publications have reviewed the evidence for IBA in children and adolescents:

The good news is the reviews are broadly in agreement and make some useful points, notably that AUDIT and CRAFT screening tools are considered the most effective and should be be used with adolescents for IBA. The bad news is, as you might expect, more research is needed as many issues remain largely unanswered. Fortunately SIPS Junior is under-way and will shed some further light, especially given the absence of UK based evidence for young people’s IBA.

One of the key issues is the significant differences between young children and older adolescents. In particular, any alcohol use may be considered problematic in younger children (especially under 15), whereas ‘lower risk’ drinking in older adolescents may not be of such concern. However what is considered ‘low risk’ for adults is not considered ‘low risk’ for adolescents based on the CMO guidance, so lower scoring cut-offs on screening tools are deemed necessary – but not yet researched. And given the broad but important age range covering children and young people, it won’t be straight-forward.

The reviews do however identify a number of research trials that identified positive effects of brief interventions (as well as some null-findings, which another paper recently suggested should not be interpreted as showing IBA not to be effective). Some evidence was also found of indications that electronic forms of brief intervention (or e-BI, or e-BA if ‘IBA-ing’ it) were effective, but also one meta-analysis found traditional face-to-face approaches superior.

All in all, IBA for young people seems an important opportunity where we can make it happen effectively, even if the research, tools and guidance aren’t up to speed with that for adults. As listed in this blog’s 2012 post on this subject, here are some IBA and young people centred resources:

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