Binge drinking (the relatively rapid consumption of more than four alcoholic drinks for women and five for men) among young adults is a growing concern all over the world. According to Dr. Brian Suffoletto of the department of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, more than 50,000 individuals between the ages of 18 to 24 years of age visit hospital Emergency Departments in the United States each day, and more than a third acknowledge that they are abusing or dependent on alcohol.
Recognizing that emergency rooms would be a perfect place for beginning to work with these young people on their drinking problems, Dr. Suffoletto and a group of colleagues set about to find a method to begin such intervention. But they needed something that would be effective without overly taxing the already tightly stretched resources of ER staff. And they hit on the idea of using text messaging.
In a report published in the December, 2011, online issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1530-0277.2011.01571.x/abstract) these researchers studied the impact of texting on a small sample of young men and women between the ages of 18 and 24, who had presented themselves at three hospitals and had been identified as "hazardous drinkers."
These young adults were randomly divided into three groups. One group was engaged in weekly text messaging with feedback and goal-setting, one in text-messaging without goal setting, and the "control" group did not engage in texting at all.
Here's what Rick Nauert, PhD, writes about the results on psychcentral.com:
"At the end of the three-month period, participants in the text messaging group had 3.4 fewer heavy drinking days in the preceding month, and 2.1 fewer drinks per drinking day when compared to baseline.
Suffoletto suggested that the use of alternative interventions, such as text messaging, is an effective method for physicians to reach young adults after they are discharged from the Emergency Department." (http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/12/16/texting-for-alcohol-intervention-in-high-risk-young-adults/32670.html)
It's a very small sample - preliminary research, according to Dr. Suffoletto. But it does have some pretty powerful implications. First, it underscores the fact that many of our kids need some help managing their use of alcohol. And second, it shows that modern technology might actually be able to provide some of that help.
Maybe that new cell phone we gave them for the holidays wasn't such a bad idea after all.
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