Curbing Alcohol Abuse: Careful Research and Consensus, Not Quick Fixes, Should Sway Policy

Study of alcohol policy development in the United States

From 1996 to 1999, investigators at the Public Health Institute's Alcohol Research Group in Berkeley, Calif., and the Addiction Research Foundation in Toronto, Canada (under a subcontract) examined factors that influence federal alcohol policy formation, with particular emphasis on the role of research in policy development.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP).

Key Recommendations

  • Because developing alcohol policies is an adversarial process, the status quo prevails in the short term.
  • Federal alcohol-control policy development and enactment should be viewed as a long-term process requiring sustained and flexible effort, especially when powerful interest groups oppose legislation.
  • Researchers recommended that more research be undertaken regarding the formulation and promotion of policies that have proven effectiveness, sufficient public support, and potentially enough bipartisan appeal to assure some measure of political viability.