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SMS-based intervention can reduce binge drinking habits: Study

SMS-based intervention can reduce binge drinking habits: Study

May 11 | By Rachael

The tendency to consume large quantities of alcohol in a single session is so common in the United States that most people fail to realize the harmful consequences of alcohol in the long run. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drinking heavily during certain occasions may result in immediate drastic effects, and excessive drinking cost the nation $249 billion in 2010 alone.

Using text messages to curb binge drinking

A team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine developed a program-based short messaging service as part of a new study, titled “An Interactive Text Message Intervention to Reduce Binge Drinking in Young Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial with 9-Month Outcomes.” The researchers hoped that the messaging service will help in limiting heavy alcohol use in adolescents.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE in November 2015, was conducted over a period of 12 weeks on participants aged 18-25. The respondents who had been released after being dispensed with the necessary treatment from four urban emergency departments in western Pennsylvania were randomly classified into three groups.

Of the three groups, the first group, or the control group, was provided with standard care but no text messages. The second group, or the self-monitoring group, received text messages on Sundays inquiring about the quantity of alcohol they had consumed, but no feedback was given to them. The third group received the full program, including text messages on Thursdays requiring the participants to disclose their drinking plans during the following weekend and encouraging them to set a goal for themselves to keep a check on drinking. The third group received another text on Sunday asking about the quantity of alcohol that they had consumed during the weekend and, in turn, giving them feedback on how they can limit their alcohol intake.

Explaining the uniqueness of the text-based method designed to restrain drinking habits, lead author of the study Brian Suffoletto, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University, said, “Given the low cost to send text messages and the capacity to deliver them to almost every at-risk young adult, a text message-based intervention targeting binge drinking could have a public health impact on reducing both immediate and long-term health problems.”

Impact of SMS-based intervention persisted even after 6 months

At the end of the 12-week trial, it was observed that the text-based intervention method was successful in lowering binge drinking and the associated physical harm among the participants, compared to the control group.

The third group that received  the full text message intervention program was found to show, on an average, one less instance of binge drinking each month. In addition, there was a 12 percent decline in their rate of binge drinking.

The positive impact of the SMS-based intervention persisted even after six months of the conclusion of the program. Suffoletto said, “Compared to in-person interventions with a clinician discussing drinking habits with a young adult in the emergency department, which requires time and resources not routinely available, suffers high variability in how it is performed, and has shown limited ability to produce lasting reductions in hazardous drinking among young adults, our text message-based intervention is scalable, provides uniform behavioral materials, and seems to produce meaningful, potentially life-saving results.”

Path to recovery

Alcohol addiction is not caused in a day. It is necessary to curb unhealthy drinking habits as addicts feel completely powerless over their dependencies and unless they are provided with a structured help, there is hardly any hope for their complete recovery. Stressing on how mobile technology can help repress drinking habits in teenagers, Suffoletto said, “By interacting with these young adults in a way in which they are receptive to communicating, and reducing the stigma associated with traditional face-to-face counseling, text messages can provide the boost they need to control their drinking when they are at their most vulnerable to forget what is healthiest for them.”

As alcohol abuse is a chronic disease, long-term follow up of any treatment is usually recommended. If your teen is battling alcohol addiction, Colorado Alcohol Addiction Helpline can connect to the best alcohol addiction treatment centers in Colorado. Our experts available at the 24/7 helpline number 866-592-9261 can help you with the necessary information on alcohol addiction treatments in Colorado that work relentlessly toward helping addicts in their recovery.

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