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Problem Drinkers Turning to the Web For Help

Online programs provide help conveniently, anonymously, experts say

TUESDAY, Feb. 15, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- The Internet is becoming an increasingly rich source of effective help for problem drinkers trying to stay sober, according to experts.

More and more alcoholics, and people concerned about their level of drinking, are turning to online tools modeled on what counselors call "in-person brief motivational interventions" (BMIs), according to reports gathered at a recent symposium of the Research Society on Alcoholism.

Examples of these online interventions include the "Drinker's Check-Up." In a prepared statement, Reid Hester, director of the Research Division at Behavior Therapy Associates in Albuquerque, N.M., described the Drinker's Check-Up program as "the Internet equivalent of two to three face-to-face sessions with a counselor."

Other Web-based interventions focus on college-age drinkers concerned about their level of consumption. They include e-CHUG, which helps students gauge whether or not their drinking falls within healthy norms, and MyStudentBody.com, which provides college kids with information and help on a number of health concerns, including problem drinking.

"A number of studies show that people tend to respond best to certain kinds of interventions, those that provide feedback, are empathetic and nonjudgmental, emphasize personal responsibility, and give people several options for how they would like to go about changing their drinking," symposium organizer Scott Walters, an assistant professor of behavioral sciences at the University of Texas School of Public Health, said in a prepared statement.

"Interventions that have these elements are more likely to reduce drinking," he added. "In fact, many drinkers seem to prefer this format. It's a way to save face, and drinkers can begin to look at their drinking in a private and nonjudgmental way."

Web-based aids also have the advantage of being cheaper and more convenient than most 'bricks and mortar' interventions, Hester said. "[They] provide anonymity, convenience -- they can be done anytime, day or night -- and getting feedback that is objective and not influenced by counselor bias."

The symposium proceedings were published in the February issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

More information

The American Psychological Association has more about alcohol use disorders and treatment.

SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, news release, Feb. 14, 2005
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