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Alcohol Alcohol. 2007 Jan-Feb;42(1):28-36. Epub 2006 Nov 26.

Screening and brief intervention online for college students: the ihealth study.

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  • 1Clinical Addiction Research and Education (CARE) Unit, Section of General Internal Medicine,Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02118, USA.



To test the feasibility of online alcohol screening and brief intervention (BI) by comparing (i) two approaches to inviting all students to be screened, and (ii) a minimal versus a more extensive BI.


Freshmen students at one university were randomized to receive one of two types of email invitations to an online anonymous: (i) general health assessment, or (ii) alcohol-specific assessment. All were linked to the same alcohol screening survey. Those with unhealthy alcohol use (AUDIT >or=8) were randomly assigned to minimal or more extensive online alcohol BI.


In both invitation groups (4008 students), 55% of students completed the online screening. Overall, 37% of men and 26% of women had unhealthy alcohol use. Compared to minimal BI, more extensive BI was associated with intention to seek help among men and with a greater increase in readiness to change among women. One month after BI, 75% of students completed another assessment, 33% of women and 15% of men with unhealthy alcohol use at baseline no longer had unhealthy alcohol use. There were no significant differences on drinking measures by BI randomization group.


Over half of an entire freshman class of college students were reached by email and completed alcohol screening and brief intervention. Even an alcohol-specific invitation did not deter students. Although brief interventions that differed had some gender specific effects on readiness to change and intention, in general, unhealthy alcohol use decreased after brief intervention. Web screening and brief intervention show promise for addressing unhealthy alcohol use by college students.

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