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Frequent Monitoring May Keep Alcohol Offenders Sober

South Dakota program is credited with reducing deaths and is now headed to other parts of the U.S.

TUESDAY, Feb. 9, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A South Dakota program that requires people involved in alcohol-linked crimes to stay away from booze and be closely monitored for drinking appears to reduce deaths, a new study finds.

Offenders in the program must undergo breathalyzer tests twice a day or wear bracelets that continuously check for alcohol. Those who skip or fail the tests are immediately jailed for a short time, typically a day or two, the study authors said.

The 24/7 Sobriety Program was launched as a pilot program in 2005 and was associated with a 4 percent drop in deaths at the county level. The largest reductions occurred among causes of death linked with excessive drinking, such as circulatory conditions, according to RAND Corp. researchers.

"Our findings suggest that criminal justice interventions that reduce heavy alcohol consumption may, in turn, influence mortality," lead author and senior economist Nancy Nicosia said in a news release from the nonprofit research organization.

"Further work is needed to better understand how programs like 24/7 Sobriety affect not only participants, but also those who are not direct participants, such as their spouses, partners or peers," she added.

The findings were published online Feb. 9 in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Nearly 17,000 people -- about 3 percent of South Dakota's adult population -- took part in the program between 2005 and 2011. Nearly half entered the program after a repeat drunk driving offense, while others had first-time drunk driving, assault or domestic violence offenses, the researchers said.

In a previous RAND study, investigators found that the 24/7 programs reduced county-level repeat drunk driving arrests by 12 percent and domestic violence arrests by 9 percent. The program is now being implemented in other parts of the United States.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about alcohol.

SOURCE: RAND Corp., news release, Feb. 9, 2016

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