Monday, November 27, 2023

Tailored Text Messages May Help Reduce Risky Alcohol Use

Daily text messages offering encouragement and advice may help some individuals significantly reduce their alcohol consumption, reports a study published today in Addiction. Compared with individuals who received a text asking about their weekly drinking behaviors, those who received tailored text messages reported significantly fewer drinks and drinking days per week after 6 months.

Frederick Muench, Ph.D., of the Partnership to End Addiction in New York and colleagues recruited women who drank at least nine drinks per week and men who drank at least 11 drinks per week and were seeking to lower their alcohol intake. A total of 723 adults (average age of 40) were randomly assigned one of three text groups for 6 months:

  • Drink tracking: Participants received a weekly assessment sent by text that inquired about their drinking over the previous 7 days. They were also asked if they had met their week’s goal.
  • Tailored static messaging: Participants received weekly assessment texts as well as daily text messages; about half were tailored to the participant (for example, they included the individual’s name or provided advice geared toward the individual’s ability to resist cravings).
  • Tailored adaptive messaging: Participants received weekly assessment texts as well as daily tailored messages that were adjusted each week depending on the extent to which they achieved their weekly goals. Participants in this group were also provided a list of key words (for example, “heavy” and “drinking”) that they could text to receive additional text support.

The researchers assessed multiple drinking variables, including the total number of weekly drinks, drinking days per week, drinks per drinking day, and heavy drinking days (four or more drinks) per month at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months.

After 6 months, participants receiving adaptive messaging showed significantly greater reductions in most drinking behaviors compared with the drink tracking group; however, there was no difference between those who did and did not receive tailored messages with regard to heavy drinking days per month.

Overall, participants receiving adaptive messaging reduced their total weekly drinks from 28.7 to 12.5, drinks per drinking day from 5.3 to 3.1, and drinking days per week from 5.5 to 3.8.

Participants in the adaptive messaging and static messaging groups demonstrated similar improvements at six months, outside of a slightly greater decrease in drinks per drinking day for those in the adaptive messaging group.

“Overall, [the] results highlight the opportunity to significantly reduce risky drinking with long-term automated messaging interventions that are scalable” and require little effort from those motivated to reduce alcohol use, Muench and colleagues concluded.

To read more about this topic, see the Psychiatric News article “Can Ketamine Curb Excess Drinking?

(Image: Getty Images/iStock/Delmaine Donson)

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