Can a text message reduce binge drinking?
Binge drinking is responsible for about 80,000 deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but new research shows something as easy as a text can reduce binge drinking in young adults.
The study, published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, followed 765 young adults at risk for hazardous drinking for 12 weeks and found sending text messages to the high-risk group following an emergency room visit reduced their binge drinking by about 50 percent.
“Illicit drugs and opiates grab all the headlines, but alcohol remains the fourth leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.,” said Dr. Brian Suffoletto of the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine in Pittsburgh, said in a news release. “If we can intervene in a meaningful way in the health and habits of people when they are young, we could make a real dent in that tragic statistic. Alcohol may bring them to the ER, but we can do our part to keep them from becoming repeat visitors.”
Participants were divided into three groups – a control group who didn’t receive any text messages from medical staff, a group who received questions about their alcohol consumption without feedback to their responses, and a group who received the same questions in addition to feedback to help develop a safe drinking goal, according to the study.
Each group self-reported the number of binge drinking days and the number of drinks consumed each day. The group who received a text and feedback reported a 51 percent decrease in binge drinking days and a 31 percent decrease in the number of drinks consumed each day while the other two groups reported an increase in binge drinking days, according to a news release.
“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,” Dr. Suffoletto said in a news release. “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.”
Binge drinking is defined as men consuming more than five drinks and women consuming more than four drinks in about two hours, bringing an individual’s blood alcohol concentration level up to 0.08 or above, according to the CDC.
“Binge drinking takes a tremendous toll on your body,” says Dr. Adam Rubinstein, an internal medicine physician with Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. “Over time, binge drinking raises blood pressure and can significantly damage your liver. I typically tell patients that if they are going to drink at all, I’d rather they have one glass of wine with dinner each night rather than four or five glasses of wine in one sitting one time a week because of the negative impact of that kind of binge drinking.”
To get more information on alcoholism and prevention, click here.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.