Expensive “Alcohol Prevention” Program Ineffective

Alcoholic beverage advertisers, alcohol retailers, college administrators, even college communities are responsible for alcohol abuse on college campuses, rather than the alcohol abusers themselves.

That’s the belief of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It paid ten universities $8.6 million to promote its temperance-oriented policies designed to rid the environment of alcohol.

A careful five-year evaluation of the “A Matter of Degree” program has been conducted by Henry Wechsler and colleagues. They studied seven measures of alcohol consumption, 13 measures of alcohol-related problems or harms, and eight measures of secondhand effects of alcohol use on others.

“No change” was found in any of the 28 measures of alcohol use or alcohol-related negative consequences. In short, the widely publicized A Matter of Degree program is a monumental flop.

Over the past few years glowing reports on the program have repeatedly promised success, which has never materialized. The A Matter of Degree program can’t be successful. That’s because the program is based on faulty assumptions about the causes and cures of alcohol abuse.

Creating a dry environment didn’t work on college campuses (or elsewhere) during National Prohibition, and creating a dry or even “moist” environment won’t suddenly work today.

Fortunately, studies continue to report that the inexpensive social norms approach is effective in reducing both alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems on college campuses across the country.


  • Weitzman, E.R., Nelson, T.H., Lee, H., and Wechsler, Henry. Reducing drinking and related harms in college: Evaluation of the “A Matter of Degree” program. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2004, 27(3), 187-196.