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Online intervention can help problem drinkers: study

A recent study conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) shows that online interventions for problem alcohol use can be effective in changing drinking behaviours.

Individuals given access to an online screener at www.CheckYourDrinking.net reduced their alcohol consumption by 30 per cent — or six to seven drinks weekly — a rate comparable to face-to-face interventions.

In the first study of its kind, 185 people were followed over a three-year span. Individuals were divided into two groups, minimal risk and those considered problem drinkers.

In the problem drinkers group, 35 people had access to the website. Those individuals showed a reduction of about six to seven drinks per week. The other 37 members of the group, who didn’t have access to the website, showed minimal reduction in consumption levels.

The remaining 113 participants, the minimal risk group, showed no major reduction.

The results were consistent in both the three- and six-month followups by lead investigator Dr. John Cunningham, a senior scientist with the CAMH’s social and community factors in prevention research section.

The website provides problem drinkers with a report that compares their alcohol intake to the national average and informs them of the physical and health risks associated with their drinking patterns.

The report also calculates the amount of money spent on alcohol annually and how much of the person’s time is spent under the influence each year. Safer drinking guidelines are provided to website users.

Dr. Cunningham said the findings of the study are encouraging, but not definitive, adding that, “face-to-face treatment is still really important and serves well for a lot of people.”

Problem drinking is a major cause of preventable deaths, trauma and violence in Canada.

According to a 2005 Statistics Canada report, three per cent of all deaths are a result of alcoholic liver disease. In addition, Transport Canada reports that alcohol was involved in 37 per cent of the cases where drivers were fatally injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2006.

The website was designed to inform drinkers about the consequences of excessive alcohol consumption, and was aimed at people who had not sought any type of treatment, said Cunningham.

“I think it’s a helpful tool,” he said. “The online survey is a way to get people to think differently, diversify resources and get services that they might not normally get.”

Cunningham said he hopes to create an online alcohol help centre in the future, offering not only more help but different types of help.

source: CBC News

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