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‘What Do You Drink’ Alcohol Intervention Helps People Maintain Control
Researchers know that people who believe in their ability to control their alcohol intake have increased chances of avoiding problematic drinking behaviors. The term used to describe this belief is self-efficacy. In a study published in May 2014 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers from the Netherlands and Switzerland assessed the effectiveness of a specific brief alcohol intervention technique, called “What Do You Drink,” in helping people achieve and maintain an improved sense of self-efficacy regarding their alcohol consumption.
People with strong self-efficacy believe they have control over how they behave while trying to achieve a particular goal or outcome. They also believe that they can rely on their own motivations and resist outside factors in their social environment that could potentially interfere with their behavioral commitments. In addition to limiting alcohol intake, self-efficacy can play a part in the achievement of critical health-related goals such as successfully quitting smoking, taking the steps needed to manage diabetes and other chronic ailments, making appropriate dietary changes, getting regular exercise and managing physical conditions that produce significant amounts of pain. The theory that underlies a self-efficacy perspective on human behavior was originally formulated in the 1970s and refined over subsequent decades.
Brief Alcohol Interventions
Some people maintain patterns of alcohol consumption that significantly increase their chances of experiencing serious short- or long-term alcohol-related harms. The two most prominent patterns that contribute to these risks are binge drinking and heavy drinking. Binge drinkers consume enough alcohol in a short timeframe (typically two hours or less) to reach a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent, the legal definition of intoxication for people operating motor vehicles. Heavy drinkers consume enough alcohol on a daily basis and/or a weekly basis to substantially boost their long-term odds of being diagnosed with alcohol abuse or alcoholism.
Brief alcohol interventions are short sessions that give doctors or other health professionals an opportunity to provide vital drinking-related information and advice to people who participate in some form of dangerous alcohol intake. While other forms of alcohol-related treatment are often aimed at people already affected by diagnosable problems, these interventions largely aim to reach people who have risks for developing such problems. Many brief interventions take place one-on-one in a doctor’s office; however, modern technology also allows for the remote use of this approach over the Internet or through smartphones.
Effect on Self-Efficacy
What Do You Drink is a brief alcohol intervention administered remotely over the Internet. As its name implies, it uses a question-and-answer format to critically probe the choices made by alcohol consumers. In the study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers from Addiction Switzerland and the Netherlands’ Radboud University Nijmegen used an examination of 907 recipients of this intervention to gauge its ability to increase people’s belief that they can resist social pressures to consume alcohol. The researchers also sought to determine if the intervention still produces a positive effect on drinking self-efficacy over extended periods of time. Each participant submitted information about his or her alcohol-consuming behaviors and perceived ability to avoid drinking; half of the participants then received the brief intervention, while the other half did not. After the brief intervention was administered, all of the participants took a test designed to measure self-efficacy.
Following the test, the researchers compared the self-efficacy levels of the group that received the brief intervention to the levels found in the group that did not receive the intervention. They also performed the same comparison six months later. At both of these times, the group that received the brief intervention displayed a higher level of self-efficacy than the group that did not receive the intervention. When they analyzed the drinking behaviors of the two groups, the researchers concluded that the group that received the brief intervention consumed smaller amounts of alcohol and participated less often in binge drinking.
Significance and Considerations
The authors of the study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence note that previous efforts from other researchers also support the usefulness of the What Do You Drink brief alcohol intervention. They believe that their findings regarding the intervention’s ability to improve drinking self-efficacy help explain why people who take part in What Do You Drink experience both immediate and lasting changes in their alcohol intake levels and participation in risky alcohol-related practices like binge drinking.