Internet-based therapies for alcohol misuse are effective for men and women, and young and old

Heleen Riper Heleen Riper

Participants of internet-therapies for problematic use of alcohol decrease their consumption of alcohol with approximately 5 glasses a week more than participants of the control group who did not follow any therapy. Also, followers of  these therapies were more than twice as likely to adhere to the low-risk drinking recommendations after treatment. These recommendations entail a maximum of 14 glasses per week for women, and 21 glasses for men. Researcher Heleen Riper of Amsterdam UMC and VU University Amsterdam: “Men and women both benefit from these therapies. This applies to different age categories and types of problem drinkers: from non-heavy to heavy. These therapies can be successfully offered with or without professional guidance directly via the internet or via the general practitioner. Professional guidance in following these therapies increases the likelihood of drinking less when compared with unguided forms”. The study has been published in the renowned PlosMedicine journal.

During the holidays, alcohol flows abundantly in many households. Many of us, young and old, probably have a resolution for the new year to drink less alcohol. However, this appears to be not that easy. People prefer to overlook the negative individual health and social consequences, both short- and long-term.

The fact remains that, of the Dutch population, 1 out of 10 consumes too much alcohol. This percentage will lie far higher when the recent guideline is adopted: consuming not more than 1 glass of alcohol a day. It is not without a reason that the National Prevention Accord names reducing problem drinking as one of the three pillars next to smoking and obesity.

An early recognition of alcohol misuse is known to enable a reverse in this behavior, for example with the aid of digital therapies. It was not known yet whether the effectiveness of these therapies is affected by for example personal traits of the drinker, such as gender, age or severity of the alcohol misuse and whether professional guidance matters or not. The individual patient data meta-analysis (IPDMA) that was conducted by the VU, GGZ inGeest and Amsterdam UMC is the first to answer these questions. For this purpose, data of 14.918 problem drinkers was collectively analyzed in this international study.