Texting for Alcohol Intervention in High-Risk Young Adults

Texting for Alcohol Intervention in High-Risk Young Adults

A new study explores text messaging as a method to interact with young adults to reduce alcohol consumption and decrease binge episodes.


The novel intervention uses the mobile platform to intervene among young adults who present at a hospital Emergency Department for alcohol-related problems.


Researchers examined the use of text messaging, both to collect drinking data from young adults after Emergency Department discharge, as well as provide immediate feedback and ongoing support to them. The researchers found that text messaging is effective on both levels.


“Each day in the U.S., more than 50,000 adults 18 to 24 years of age visit hospital Emergency Departments, and more than one-third report current alcohol abuse or dependence,” said Dr. Brian Suffoletto of the department of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and corresponding author for the study. “Thus, Emergency Departments provide a unique opportunity to both identify young adults with harmful or hazardous drinking behavior and intervene to reduce future injury and illness.”


Unfortunately, emergency-care providers rarely have the time or expertise to screen for or discuss problematic alcohol use.

Further, the current health care delivery model in the U.S. does not encourage hospitals to have counselors on duty for Emergency Department intervention, nor are patients with acute drinking issues necessarily interested in having those discussions immediately.


“Given that mobile phones are essentially ubiquitous among young adults, and texting in particular is a heavily used communication tool, we sought to build and test an automated text messaging system that could conduct a health dialogue with young adults after discharge,” said Suffoletto.

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