Trying to Reach Young Adults on Alcohol Use? Send a Text

A study of more than 700 young adults with a hazardous drinking history and a recent emergency room visit has identified text messaging as a potent strategy for reducing levels of harmful drinking.

Published online this summer in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, the 12-week study found that the young adults who received texted questions about their drinking along with feedback on their replies via text reduced self-reported drinks per day by 31%. Moreover, these individuals decreased self-reported binge drinking days by 51%, while groups receiving no texts or texted questions with no feedback each experienced more binge drinking days.

The content of the feedback received by the group that achieved success was related to strengthening individuals’ low-risk drinking plan or encouraging reflection on an existing low-risk plan or a prior decision not to have one.

“Each day in the U.S., more than 50,000 adults ages 18 to 24 visit ERs and up to half have hazardous alcohol use patterns,” Brian Suffoletto, MD, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said in a news release about the study results. “More than a third of them report alcohol abuse or dependence. The emergency department provides a unique setting to screen young adults for drinking problems and to engage with them via their preferred mode of communication to reduce future use.”