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A Canadian study has found that mailing a simple information pamphlet to drinkers in the general public can reduce binge drinking as much as 10 percent. Researchers at the University of Alberta say the mail approach could significantly reduce health and social problems associated with heavy drinking.

Usually, prevention efforts are aimed at college students, people seeking treatment for injuries incurred while drinking or those seeking counseling or treatment. The Alberta study was aimed at the general public.

"While these are important target groups, university students only represent a small fraction of drinkers in the general population who engage in heavy alcohol consumption and get into problems," said Dr. Cameron Wild, lead author of the paper and a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. "As for screening for alcohol problems in health care, busy health care professionals often don't enquire about alcohol problems. Our study was designed to fill this gap. Effective Alcohol Intervention

"We showed that simply mailing brief self-help materials to interested adults in the general public can be an effective way to expand the reach and impact of brief alcohol interventions."

"It's embarrassing to reveal to someone that you are concerned about your alcohol use, and drinking problems are highly stigmatized," Dr. Wild said. "We know that most people prefer to change addictive behaviors on their own, and our research capitalizes on this by helping people take stock of their drinking habits.

"We think it is an innovative way to reach out to problem drinkers who are too embarrassed or afraid of the stigma to seek out formal alcohol treatment," he said.

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