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Texts From The ER Reduces Binge Drinking, Study Finds

Update Date: Jul 14, 2014 10:57 AM EDT

Young adults who were detected positive for a history of hazardous or binge drinking reduced their habit of binge drinking by more than 50 percent after receiving mobile phone text messages following a visit to the emergency department, according to a new study. 

"Each day in the U.S., more than 50,000 adults ages 18 to 24 visit ERs and up to half have hazardous alcohol use patterns," said Brian Suffoletto, MD, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pittsburgh, Pa, in the press release.  "More than a third of them report alcohol abuse or dependence.  The emergency department provides a unique setting to screen young adults for drinking problems and to engage with them via their preferred mode of communication to reduce future use."

Researchers considered more than 700 young adult emergency patients with a history of hazardous drinking. Hazardous drinking is defined as five or more drinks per day for men and four or more drinks per day for women. 

"Illicit drugs and opiates grab all the headlines, but alcohol remains the fourth leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.," said Dr. Suffoletto.  "If we can intervene in a meaningful way in the health and habits of people when they are young, we could make a real dent in that tragic statistic.  Alcohol may bring them to the ER, but we can do our part to keep them from becoming repeat visitors."

The study has been published in the journal Annals of Emergency Medicine. 

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