NHS Grampian board's "Texting or Talking?" scheme aims to cut binge-drinking

Text message plan to curb binge drinking among young adults

Published Date: 13 May 2010
By Frank Urquhart

SCOTTISH health professionals are turning to text messaging in a radical bid to curb binge drinking among young adults.

NHS Grampian researchers have been chosen to carry out a year-long project in which people in their twenties seen as “hazardous” drinkers will be sent text messages, it was revealed yesterday.

Before they set out for pubs and clubs in Aberdeen at weekends, the texts will urge them to drink in moderation.

The tactic has proven effective in previous initiatives designed to help people quit smoking and to exercise more.

Dr Steve Baguley, sexual health specialist at the city’s Woolmanhill Hospital, who is heading the Scottish Government study, said the aim was to recruit more than 1,000 volunteers, mainly in their twenties, to take part in the pilot scheme and compare three different methods of intervention aimed at curbing excessive drinking.

One group will given be advice leaflets. The second group will be dealt with through a “brief intervention” – a short structured interview with a health professional which is the most common initiative currently used to encourage moderate drinking. The third group will receive text messages.

Those taking part in the so-called Texting or Talking study will be selected for the three groups at random.

Dr Baguley said: “Binge drinking is very common among people who come to sexual health clinics and we found in one study that 50 per cent were hazardous drinkers.

“Hazardous drinking – or binge drinking – is associated with poor sexual health: catching sexually transmitted infections, getting pregnant when you don’t want to and being sexually assaulted.”

He said the aim was to send the texting group a series of messages to their mobiles every Friday night before they leave home for a night out.

The messages will urge: “If you’re drinking this weekend, take it easy.” There will then be an additional text, containing various messages, including: “Make sure it’s you making the decisions. Eat before and while you drink. Use soft drink spacers.”

They will also be warned: “You’re more likely to be sexually assaulted if you’re drunk. Alcohol provokes the desire but takes away the performance.”

Dr Baguley added: “We are not trying to say don’t drink. We would just turn people off if we tried to insist on that. It is really to try to help people gain control of the situation when they are going out drinking.

“Texting has never been tried for alcohol before. Texting has been tried internationally and found to be effective for smoking cessation, weight loss and for promoting exercise and in the control of diabetes.

Click the link for more on text messaging scheme

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