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Internet Can Help Curb Drinking Among College Students

Web-based counseling reduces alcohol abuse among undergrads, study shows

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Heavy drinking is a growing problem among university students, but an Internet-based intervention may help them control their alcohol use, a new study finds.

Researchers analyzed data from a Web-based alcohol-use screening test taken by more than 7,200 undergraduate university students, aged 17 to 24, in Australia, and found that more than 2,400 qualified as hazardous/harmful drinkers. Of these students, about half were placed in a Web-based intervention group and received motivational assessments and personalized feedback, while the other half were placed in a control group that received no feedback.

The intervention included information about reducing alcohol-associated health risks, an estimated blood alcohol concentration for each student's heaviest drinking episode, an estimate of the money spent on drinking, comparison to other students' drinking, and links to resources to help people with alcohol problems.

The researchers followed-up with the participants at one and six months after initial screening.

"After one month, participants receiving intervention drank less often, smaller quantities per occasion and less alcohol overall than did controls," wrote Kypros Kypri of the University of Newcastle in Australia and the University of Otago in New Zealand, and colleagues. "Differences in alcohol-related harms were nonsignificant. At six months, intervention effects persisted for drinking frequency and overall volume but not for other variables."

Noting that university students drink more heavily and exhibit more clinically significant alcohol-related problems than their non-student peers, the researchers suggested that there could be great potential in alcohol counseling over the Internet.

"Given the scale on which proactive Web-based electronic screening and brief intervention (e-SBI) can be delivered and its acceptability to student drinkers, we can be optimistic that a widespread application of this intervention would produce a benefit in this population group," they concluded. "The e-SBI, a program that is available free for nonprofit purposes, could be extended to other settings, including high schools, general practices, and hospitals."

The study appears in the Sept. 14 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has more about young adult drinking.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Sept. 14, 2009

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