Randomized Controlled Trial of Proactive Web-Based Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention for University Students
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Background: University students drink more heavily than their nonstudent peers and are often unaware that their drinking is risky and exceeds normative levels. We tested the efficacy of a proactive Web-based alcohol screening and brief intervention program. Methods: A randomized controlled trial was conducted at an Australian university in 2007. Invitations were sent to 13 000 undergraduates (age range, 17-24 years) to complete a Web-based Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test. Of 7237 students who responded, 2435 scored in the hazardous/harmful range (≥8) and were randomized, and 2050 (84%) completed at least 1 follow-up assessment. Intervention was 10 minutes of Web-based motivational assessment and personalized feedback. Controls received only screening. Follow-up assessments were conducted at 1 and 6 months with observers and participants blinded to allocation. Outcome measures were drinking frequency, typical occasion quantity, overall volume, number of personal problems, an academic problems score, prevalence of binge drinking, and prevalence of heavy drinking. Results: Mean (SD) baseline Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test scores for control and intervention groups were 14.3 (5.1) and 14.2 (5.1), respectively. After 1 month, participants receiving intervention drank less often (rate ratio [RR], 0.89; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.83-0.94), smaller quantities per occasion (RR, 0.93; 95% CI, 0.88-0.98), and less alcohol overall (RR, 0.83; 95% CI, 0.78-0.90) than did controls. Differences in alcohol-related harms were nonsignificant. At 6 months, intervention effects persisted for drinking frequency (RR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.85-0.97) and overall volume (RR, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.82-0.96) but not for other variables. Conclusion: Proactive Web-based screening and intervention reduces drinking in undergraduates, and such a program could be implemented widely.
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