Can't find something? Search Here.

Using Texting as a Way to Address Problematic Drinking

Posted in Alcoholism Treatment

When young adults enter the emergency room for alcohol-related injury, it provides a unique opportunity for intervention and screening. By intervening at a young age, healthcare workers may be able to prevent lasting problems that extend far into adulthood. However, few hospitals have the resources to provide adequate screening and intervention services in their emergency departments.

A recent study explored the effectiveness of using a low-cost intervention for those who visited the emergency department because of alcohol-related injury through the use of receiving text messages (Suffoletto, Callaway, Kristan, Kraemer & Clark, 2011).

The researchers recruited 45 individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 during emergency department visits. The participants all met criteria for perilous drinking during the three months prior using a tool called the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test – Consumption. Each of the participants finished a timeline follow-back assessment that allowed them to report their drinking over the past three months, which was conducted at baseline and at a 12-week follow-up.

For the duration of the 12-week study, the participants received a text message every week. The participants were divided into three groups of 15 each:

  • In the Intervention group, participants were sent weekly texts that encouraged them to set goals to decrease drinking during the following week and provided tips for doing so. They also were sent texts requesting they report their alcohol use for the week.
  • The Assessment group received a text inquiring about their drinking levels, but no encouragement to change that level or tips for reducing consumption.
  • The Control group only received messages on a weekly basis that reminded the participants that at the 12-week follow-up they would be asked to fill out a closing survey.

The results of the study showed that those who received the texting intervention were not as likely to report heavy drinking days. In addition, those in the Intervention group were not as likely to report weeks with a heavy consumption day and were not as likely to have consecutive weeks that contained severe consumption days when compared with the Assessment Group.

Those in this Intervention group both decreased drinks per day and the number of heavy consumption days while those in the Assessment group increased drinking in both of those categories.

One important limitation to the study’s findings noted by the authors is that the participants in the Control group may have not been as accurate in their reporting, because their drinking activity was recorded at the end of the 12-week period. The other two groups reported their drinking activity each week.