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Monday, July 14, 2014

Text Messages Can Reduce Binge Drinking

Researchers have found that following up with patients who have dangerous drinking patterns via text message can reduce a patient’s binge drinking by more than 50 percent.

"Each day in the U.S., more than 50,000 adults ages 18 to 24 visit ERs and up to half have hazardous alcohol use patterns," said Brian Suffoletto, MD, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pittsburgh, Pa. "More than a third of them report alcohol abuse or dependence. The emergency department provides a unique setting to screen young adults for drinking problems and to engage with them via their preferred mode of communication to reduce future use."

The study data comes from 765 young adults whose screening showed a history of hazardous drinking patterns. Over the 12 week study period, one-third were texted prompts to respond to drinking-related queries, as well as feedback on their answers. Another third received only text message queries about their drinking and one-third received no text messages at all.

Those study participants who received both questions and feedback reported that they decreased their binge drinking days by 51 percent and lowered the number of drinks per day by 31 percent. The other two study groups reported an increase in binge drinking days.

"Illicit drugs and opiates grab all the headlines, but alcohol remains the fourth leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.," said Dr. Suffoletto. "If we can intervene in a meaningful way in the health and habits of people when they are young, we could make a real dent in that tragic statistic. Alcohol may bring them to the ER, but we can do our part to keep them from becoming repeat visitors."

The study was published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

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