Purpose of review
To critique the recent literature on telephone, correspondence-based, and computerized interventions for alcohol problems, which enhance or substitute for practitioner-delivered treatments.
There is an unmet need for screening, assessment and intervention for alcohol problems, in part because of the difficulty in accessing such treatment within the current health care system. Research on the efficacy of correspondence or electronic (for example Internet-based) interventions is beginning to emerge. In the period 2003–2004 we identified nine acceptability or feasibility studies of these approaches and seven efficacy trials covering a wide range of settings. These modes of intervention are acceptable to patients and the public, and with careful planning, can be implemented in a variety of settings. Treatment trials demonstrate the efficacy of these interventions in reducing hazardous drinking by university students, in delaying initiation of heavy drinking in children and adolescents, and, intriguingly, in addressing insomnia among recovering alcoholics.
There is strong support among potential users for alcohol interventions that employ telephone assistance, written correspondence, and the Internet. These new technologies offer the prospect of increasing the reach of interventions for problem drinking and being cost-effective alternatives or supplements to face-to-face health service delivery.