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Alcohol Abuse

Intervention Text Messages Get Heavy Drinking Young Adults to Reduce Their Consumption

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posted 09:16 AM EST, Wed December 21, 2011
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Researchers in Pennsylvania say that text messages may be an effective delivery system for alcohol abuse interventions to heavy drinking young adults. Heavy drinking young adults drink substantially less when they get periodic text messages containing strategies to reduce consumption.

Researchers at The University of Pittsburgh say that text messages may be an effective way to get heavy drinking teens and young adults to cut down their consumption.

Working out of ERs at 3 hospitals in Pennsylvania, the researchers screened incoming youth for heavy drinking to find 39 subjects who agreed to participate in a study on text messaging as a way to reduce alcohol consumption.

Each subject was placed into 1 of 3 groups for the duration of the 12 week study:

  1. A control group – youth in this group were texted a reminder each week to participate in the final study
  2. An assessment group – youth in this group were asked to report their past week’s alcohol intake once a week
  3. An intervention group – youth in this group were asked to report their past week’s alcohol intake. Each week they were asked if they would like to try to reduce their intake for the following week, and if they said yes they were texted strategies for reducing their consumption.

The Results

Youth in the intervention group had fewer days of heavy drinking per week and fewer drinks per session of heavy drinking.

  • Compared to the control group, those in the intervention group reported 3.4 fewer days of heavy drinking per month and 2.1 fewer drinks per heavy drinking session.
  • When youth in the intervention group agreed to try to reduce their consumption in the coming week they ended up drinking anyway only 36% of the time. Those in the intervention group who set no goal to reduce their drinking in the coming week drank heavily at least once in that week 63% of the time.

The researchers say that based on the positive results of this small initial study it looks like text messaging may be an effective way to target young people at risk of alcohol abuse problems.

The full research results can be found in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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Story Highlights
  • Text Messages: Heavy drinking young adults who received messages about reducing consumption drank less than those who got no such messages.
  • Less Drinking Per Session: Not only did the text messages reduce the number of days of heavy drinking per month, those receiving text messages also drank an average of 2 fewer drinks per session.
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