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Research Summary

Internet-based Intervention Reduces Alcohol Use

Patients with unhealthy alcohol use often do not seek formal treatment, and alcohol interventions are in limited use in nonspecialty medical settings. In this study, Canadian researchers randomized 185 general-population survey respondents who scored ≥4 on the 3 consumption items from the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT-C) to gain access to CheckYourDrinking.net, a Web-based alcohol intervention (n=92), or to no intervention (n=93). The site guides participants through a brief assessment and provides normative feedback comparing participant drinking to age-, sex-, and country-matched peers as well as a personalized summary of any alcohol problems. The mean age of participants in this study was 40 years. Fifty-three percent were men, and 63% were employed.

  • The follow-up rate was 93% at 6 months.
  • Among participants with AUDIT scores of ≥11 at baseline (suggesting heavier drinking), consumption decreased by 6 drinks per week on average among those in the intervention group at 6 months (p<0.05), while no significant reduction was seen among controls.
  • No reductions in drinking were seen among participants in either group who had AUDIT scores of 4 to 10 at baseline.*
  • Analyses included the one-third of subjects who were randomized to the intervention group but never accessed the Web site.
*An AUDIT score of ≥8 is often considered a cutoff for unhealthy alcohol use.

Comments:

This study adds to growing evidence that personalized, Web-based alcohol assessment and feedback can reduce alcohol use. Given that the sample was population-based, it is clinically notable that the intervention was most effective among heavier drinkers at an order of magnitude similar to that of face-to-face brief counseling in medical settings. Furthermore, the intervention was truly referral-only, since intent-to-treat analyses included those who did not visit the site. Referral to CheckYourDrinking.net or similar Web sites appears to be a reasonable option for patients with unhealthy alcohol use. Peter D. Friedmann, MD, MPH

Reference:

Cunningham JA, Wild TC, Cordingley J, et al. A randomized controlled trial of an internet-based intervention for alcohol abusers. Addiction. 2009;104(12):2023–2032.


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