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Alcohol abuse in adults can be more effectively tackled through Internet-based interventions, which are often more accessible and acceptable than face-to-face counselling, scientists say.

According to a study published in the journal PLOS Medicine, Internet-based interventions for adult problem drinking (iAIs) could serve as a first step toward changing problem-drinking behaviours and seeking more intensive treatment if needed.

Global estimations continue to show increasing morbidity, mortality and social harm caused by all types of problem drinking. Although brief face-to-face interventions are effective, they are rarely used.

Internet-based interventions could overcome this treatment gap because they are more accessible and scalable, and they are more acceptable to problem drinkers.

A researcher from VU University in the Netherlands investigated the effectiveness and moderators of treatment outcomes in Internet-based interventions for adult problem drinking.

They performed systematic searches in medical and psychological databases to find trails quantifying the effect of iAIs on problem drinking. They analysed individual patient data for 14,198 adults who participated in 19 randomised controlled trials and exhibited various profiles of problem drinking when the studies began.

They also obtained post-treatment data for 8,095 participants.

The results show that Internet-based alcohol interventions in both community and health care populations are effective in reducing weekly alcohol consumption.

Patients receiving iAIs were more likely than controls to achieve adherence to low-risk drinking limits. Treatment outcomes do not differ significantly for regular, heavy or binge drinkers.

However, people above age 55 showed a greater likelihood of post-intervention adherence to low-risk drinking recommendations than younger people.

Average weekly consumption dropped by roughly 20 grammes of ethanol more for men than for women, and for less educated participants than for more highly educated ones.

In addition, human-guided interventions showed a stronger impact on treatment outcome than fully automated ones.

According to the researchers, the health gains of Internet-based alcohol interventions could be substantial because they can benefit both men and women from different age groups and with different drinking profiles.

(Inputs from PTI)

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