Web-based interventions can be a valuable resource for people in recovery with a lengthy history of heavy drinking, a recent study showed.

“We wanted to go after heavy drinkers because web-based interventions typically work for people who aren’t severe and who are already highly motivated,” said William Campbell, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist from Behavioral Therapy Associates.

A team of researchers led by Campbell first recruited 189 heavy drinkers who were looking to achieve abstinence. Subjects were asked to sign onto two online resources: Overcoming Addictions (OA) and SMART Recovery (SR). SR is described as social in nature, while OA is self-directed.

At the beginning of the study, researchers believed that the structured, more personalized design of OA would yield superior results to SR and that it would heighten outcomes, even more, when used alongside SR.

They hypothesized that both groups would lessen their drinking at follow-up compared with their baseline levels, and using OA and SR together would lessen their drinking more than SR alone. Their results supported their initial hypothesis but not the second. While compiling their findings researchers discovered SR was a superior website. However, they concluded that “there was evidence to show that OA can serve as a feasible alternative to SR, and as a Web-based intervention, it entails the advantages of access, reach, and cost-effectiveness.”

Unlike patients going through traditional psychotherapy, patients did what was appropriate for them. They used as much as they needed and reported gaining skills from the SR model in both the self-directed and social websites.

Campbell said the subjects drastically increased the number of days they were alcohol-free over a six-month follow-up period. Upon further review, researchers saw a reduction in alcohol-associated complications, and fewer drinks consumed during days when they chose to drink.

The most interesting discovery came during exit interviews. During their study, participants told researchers they did not rely solely on SR or OA. They used… (continue reading)