Problem drinking is one of the leading causes of disease and death as well as socio-economic problems in Western societies. In spite of this fact, only ten to 20 percent of individuals with alcohol issues ever actively seek treatment or participate in rehabilitation. A new study examined the effectiveness of a free access and anonymous interactive self-help intervention through the internet. Drinking Less is a web-based system that is available 24/7. According to the findings of the research, the project website is effective in helping problem drinkers battle with their addictions from the comfort of their homes.
The results of the study will be published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research in August.
“We were concerned that so few problem drinkers access the help they need,” says senior scientist Heleen Riper of the Trimbos Institute at the Vrije Universiteit in the Netherlands. “This may not come as a surprise, given that addiction services predominantly focus on severely dependent people.” Riper is a corresponding author of this study.
Renout Wiers, professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Amsterdam notes that web-based alcohol interventions offer cheaper and more accessible options for a larger part of the population of problem drinkers who are not getting treatment that they need.
Riper and her colleagues sought to expand the use of the DL from clinical trials for self-help intervention sans the therapeutic guidance to a full-blown community initiative. “DL consists of motivational, cognitive-behavioral and self-control information and exercises,” Riper said. “It helps problem drinkers decide if they really want to change their problem drinking and, if so, helps them set realistic goals for achieving a change in their drinking behaviour, providing tools and exercises to maintain these changes, or deal with relapse if it occurs.”
The study was composed of participants who went through the program that DL provided. After six months, the subjects reported a decrease in their mean weekly alcohol consumption. “18.8 percent changed their drinking patterns to low-risk drinking.” Findings of the study also show that this form of intervention is more acceptable for female drinkers.
Riper recommends that such type of interventions become the first step to a more collective approach to addressing alcohol problems. “Web-based self help should be seen as an additional form of service next to existing services,” she said. “It could be used as a stand-alone intervention, expanded with therapeutic guidance for those who are ready for it, or used to mitigate waiting times. It provides accessibility for population who live in low-density areas where professional services are scarce. Alone, it cannot change the world, but it could help to make a difference once integrated.”
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