Alcohol Education Scare Tactics Are Not Effective

I. Scare Tactics

The use of alcohol education scare tactics has been traditional in alcohol education. But the alcohol education scare approach isn’t effective. Yet this fact has’t discouraged its use.

But research beginning in the 1930s has found that scare tactics tend to be ineffective.  And can be counterproductive. In short, people tend to “tune them out.” That’s because they tend to create mental discomfort. And there appear to be many other reasons they tend to be ineffective.1

II. Effective Alternative to Alcohol Education Scare Tactics

Yet there are many techniques that are very effective in reducing alcohol abuse. One of the many alternatives to scare tactics is the social norms approach. The social norms approach gives accurate information about usage. It does that rather than exaggerate the extent of drinking and alcohol abuse.

Alcohol Education Scare Students typically hold exaggerated beliefs about how many students really drink. About how often they drink. And about how much they drink. They tend to believe that “everyone’s doing it.” They feel pressure to conform to that undesirable behavior.

Surveys of actual student behavior are made on campus. Then the actual, lower numbers are widely reported or marketed. As a result, people no longer feel the need to live up to some imagined false norm of behavior.

Research has repeatedly shown that the technique is effective. It’s inexpensive to implement. And the positive results tend to occur quickly.


    1. Brown, S., et al. Defensive responses to an emotive anti-alco message. Psych Health, 24(5), 517-28.