Effectiveness of a Web-based Intervention for Problem Drinkers and Reasons for Dropout: Randomized Controlled Trial

Nijmegen Institute for Scientist-Practitioners in Addiction, Nijmegen, Netherlands.
Journal of Medical Internet Research (Impact Factor: 3.43). 12/2010; 12(4):e68. DOI: 10.2196/jmir.1642
Source: PubMed


Online self-help interventions for problem drinkers show promising results, but the effectiveness of online therapy with active involvement of a therapist via the Internet only has not been examined.
The objective of our study was to evaluate an e-therapy program with active therapeutic involvement for problem drinkers, with the hypotheses that e-therapy would (1) reduce weekly alcohol consumption, and (2) improve health status. Reasons for dropout were also systematically investigated.
In an open randomized controlled trial, Dutch-speaking problem drinkers in the general population were randomly assigned (in blocks of 8, according to a computer-generated random list) to the 3-month e-therapy program (n = 78) or the waiting list control group (n = 78). The e-therapy program consisted of a structured 2-part online treatment program in which the participant and the therapist communicated asynchronously, via the Internet only. Participants in the waiting list control group received "no-reply" email messages once every 2 weeks. The primary outcome measures were (1) the difference in the score on weekly alcohol consumption, and (2) the proportion of participants drinking under the problem drinking limit. Intention-to-treat analyses were performed using multiple imputations to deal with loss to follow-up. A dropout questionnaire was sent to anyone who did not complete the 3-month assessment. Reasons for dropout were independently assessed by the first and third author.
Of the 156 individuals who were randomly assigned, 102 (65%) completed assessment at 3 months. In the intention-to-treat analyses, the e-therapy group (n = 78) showed a significantly greater decrease in alcohol consumption than those in the control group (n = 78) at 3 months. The e-therapy group decreased their mean weekly alcohol consumption by 28.8 units compared with 3.1 units in the control group, a difference in means of 25.6 units on a weekly basis (95% confidence interval 15.69-35.80, P < .001). The between-group effect size (pooled SD) was large (d = 1.21). The results also showed that 68% (53/78) of the e-therapy group was drinking less than 15 (females) or 22 (males) units a week, compared with 15% (12/78) in the control group (OR 12.0, number needed to treat 1.9, P < .001). Dropout analysis showed that the main reasons for dropouts (n = 54) were personal reasons unrelated to the e-therapy program, discomfort with the treatment protocol, and satisfaction with the positive results achieved.
E-therapy for problem drinking is an effective intervention that can be delivered to a large population who otherwise do not seek help for their drinking problem. Insight into reasons for dropout can help improve e-therapy programs to decrease the number of dropouts. Additional research is needed to directly compare the effectiveness of the e-therapy program with a face-to-face treatment program.

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Available from: Marloes G Postel, Aug 27, 2015
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    • "Fourteen studies recruited adults[12131920222324303235363840414546] and 21 studies recruited school going or college students or adolescents.[6789101114151617182125262728293133343739424344] Three studies evaluated only female population.[293336] "
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    ABSTRACT: Alcohol continues to be a major contributor to morbidity and mortality globally. Despite the scientific advances, alcohol use related problems continue to pose a major challenge to medicine and public health. Internet offers a new mode to provide health care interventions. Web based interventions (WBIs) provide the health care services at the door steps of the end users. WBIs have been developed for alcohol use related problems over the past few years. WBIs offer a potentially relevant and viable mode of service delivery to problem alcohol users. Hence, it is important to assess these interventions for their effectiveness. Some of the existing WBIs for alcohol use assessed systematically in controlled trials. The current review evaluates the available evidence for the effectiveness of WBIs for reducing alcohol use. The literature search was performed using MedLine, PubMed, PsycINFO and EMBASE for relevant English language articles published up to and including April 2013. Only publications focused on reducing alcohol use through WBIs were included.
    07/2014; 4(4):472-80. DOI:10.4103/2141-9248.139272
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    • "Recently, the numbers of published randomised controlled trials on Internet-based interventions for alcohol misuse has increased, including some that evaluate therapist-led self-help interventions [37], [38]. We therefore decided to conduct this meta-analysis. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background Alcohol misuse ranks within the top ten health conditions with the highest global burden of disease. Low-intensity, Internet interventions for curbing adult alcohol misuse have been shown effective. Few meta-analyses have been carried out, however, and they have involved small numbers of studies, lacked indicators of drinking within low risk guidelines, and examined the effectiveness of unguided self-help only. We therefore conducted a more thorough meta-analysis that included both guided and unguided interventions. Methods Systematic literature searches were performed up to September 2013. Primary outcome was the mean level of alcohol consumption and drinking within low risk guidelines for alcohol consumption at post-treatment. Findings We selected 16 randomised controlled trials (with 23 comparisons and 5,612 participants) for inclusion. Results, showed a small but significant overall effect size in favour of Internet interventions (g = 0.20, 95% CI: 0.13–0.27, p<.001). Participants in Internet interventions drunk on average 22 grams of ethanol less than controls and were significantly more likely to be adhering to low-risk drinking guidelines at post-treatment (RD 0.13, 95% CI: 0.09–0.17, p<.001). Subgroup analyses revealed no significant differences in potential moderators for the outcome of alcohol consumption, although there was a near-significant difference between comparisons with waitlist control and those with assessment-only or alcohol information control conditions (p = .056). Conclusions Internet interventions are effective in reducing adult alcohol consumption and inducing alcohol users to adhere to guidelines for low-risk drinking. This effect is small but from a public health point of view this may warrant large scale implementation at low cost of Internet interventions for adult alcohol misuse. Moderator analyses with sufficient power are, however, needed in order to assess the robustness of these overall results and to assess whether these interventions may impact on subgroups with different levels of success.
    PLoS ONE 06/2014; 9(6):e99912. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0099912 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    • "Brief interventions for problem (i.e. hazardous or harmful) drinking is one area of research utilizing waiting list control designs [18,19]. Given evidence that problem drinking is often resolved without treatment [10,20], the use of a waiting list control design may be unethical if it has the effects ascribed to it. "
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    ABSTRACT: Employing waiting list control designs in psychological and behavioral intervention research may artificially inflate intervention effect estimates. This exploratory randomized controlled trial tested this proposition in a study employing a brief intervention for problem drinkers, one domain of research in which waiting list control designs are used. All participants (N = 185) were provided with brief personalized feedback intervention materials after being randomly allocated either to be told that they were in the intervention condition and that this was the intervention or to be told that they were in the waiting list control condition and that they would receive access to the intervention in four weeks with this information provided in the meantime. A total of 157 participants (85%) were followed-up after 4 weeks. Between-group differences were found in one of four outcomes (proportion within safe drinking guidelines). An interaction was identified between experimental manipulation and stage of change at study entry such that participant change was arrested among those more ready to change and told they were on the waiting list. Trials with waiting list control conditions may overestimate treatment effects, though the extent of any such bias appears likely to vary between study populations. Arguably they should only be used where this threat to valid inference has been carefully assessed.
    BMC Medical Research Methodology 12/2013; 13(1):150. DOI:10.1186/1471-2288-13-150 · 2.27 Impact Factor
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