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REVIEW 2010 HTM file
Computer-delivered interventions for alcohol and tobacco use: a meta-analysis
Computer-based and in particular internet-based therapies open doors to treatment for drinkers who cannot get or do not want face-to-face-help. This review finds they do curb drinking, but its sub-finding that they are as effective as alternative therapies should not be taken to mean computers can replace therapists.
The perennial problem of excessive student drinking may have a modern-day remedy in the form of web-based programs comparing the site visitor with other students. This UK trial is not altogether convincing, but the US evidence is on balance positive.
Studies published in the mid-2000s confirm that counselling based on motivational interviewing helps heavy drinking US college students control their drinking and reduce related problems.
At a US university students at first cut back their drinking and cannabis use in response to a brief face-to-face fitness consultation, but the gains were no longer apparent a year after intervention. Yet still at that time they had at least experienced more positive trends in how they felt than students who had just read a fitness brochure.
Can college health clinics do widespread screening and brief alcohol advice? Yes they can, is one conclusion of this first large-scale test conducted at five North American universities. The other main conclusion – that by doing so they make worthwhile reductions in drinking and related harm – is weakened by the small size of the impacts.
Is being caught and disciplined all it takes to get heavy drinkers who violate university drinking rules to cut back? According to this US study, the discipline process does work, but adding brief motivational-style advice makes a worthwhile extra impact.
Study at a US college which required new students to complete a short web-based alcohol education/prevention programme shows that such programmes really can start students off on a healthier drinking trajectory.
Synthesis of randomised trials finds worthwhile reductions in drinking after college students and others are simply very briefly informed how their drinking compares to population norms.
Brief interventions based on motivational interviewing typically incorporate feedback on the individual's risk and use level compared to the norm, but does this really help? A US college study found it did, the combination leading to greater drinking reductions than either on its own.
What happens when instead of asking students to cut drinking, you ask them to use more moderation strategies such as spacing or avoiding heavy drinking situations? The results of this US study suggest that changes in strategy use may bear little relation to changes in drinking, and that intention to cut back is the most important factor.
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