Text Messaging Featured Article

Text Messaging Can Be a Useful Tool in Curbing Teen Alcoholism

December 22, 2011

Using text messaging, professionals are able to communicate with at-risk youth about drinking habits, aiming to reduce substance abuse. In a recent seven-week trial, researchers were able to collaborate with hazardous-drinking teens.

According to this Med Page Today report, heavy drinking days during the trial period were four drinks for women and five drinks for men. Dr. Brian Suffoletto with the University of Pittsburg explained that using text messaging to gather data about the teens’ drinking behavior and offer support resulted in the teens actually drinking less.

The research in the clinical study shows that text messaging to give feedback to emergency room discharge patients can change their behaviors. Emergency department personnel are able to look over the youths and their risky drinking behaviors. To study the effectiveness of this process, Dr. Suffoletto and his team looked over the admitted teens to evaluate the level of hazardous drinking behaviors.

The 12-week program focused on the care of 39 participants. Every teen in the program fully cooperated with weekly, automated text messaging that placed their drinking habits in categories. The intervention portion of the program asked questions regarding alcohol intake and goal setting.

The assessment questions prompted the teens to talk about the goal setting in addition to intake. The control phase simply reminded the teens, via text messaging, to take a final survey when exiting the program.

Through text messaging communications, teens went over how many days they drank over the course of a week, in addition to the total drinks they consumed in a 24-hour period. These results were compared with an intervention group to discuss their particular threshold of drinking. If the drinking persisted for five days or more for men or four days or more for women, a new goal to reduce drinking the following week was set.

This new goal was supported with strategies over text messaging. The teens were also given monetary rewards for completing the surveys. They received $20 for baseline surveys and $40 for follow-up surveys. The text messaging program paid off for teens as well. If a teen responded to at least 10 of the weekly texts, they received another $30.

The intervention group reported fewer weeks of heavy drinking from its young participants, compared with those in the assessment group. Nearly 36 percent of the time, teens in the intervention group ended up drinking more despite setting a goal to drink less. Yet 36 percent of those same teens never even set a goal to decrease their alcohol consumption.

Text messaging played a large role in this entire experiment, according to the researchers. Those with text messaging intervention had 3.4 fewer drinks in a month and 2.1 less drinks during a given day.

The assessment group wasn’t as fortunate and inconsistent with previous research results. This group increased their drinking during the 12-week study. Researchers question the validity of original baseline results for those same teens, suggested they may have been drinking more in the beginning, which would lead to varied results.


Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell
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