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Is Text Messaging the Newest Cure for Addiction?

nate steiner, Flickr

It turns out suffers from alcohol dependency might be able to kick the habit by doing what comes natural… texting. Yup, a new study has found actual evidence that there may be a health benefit to text messaging.

Research with young problem drinkers found those who sent and received weekly text messages tracking their alcohol consumption drank less at the end of the 12-week program than they did at the beginning.

Depending on how much they drank each week, participants received automated texts that either provided positive feedback and encouragement or urged a limit on alcohol consumption the following week. Those who agreed to a limit received a follow-up text suggesting strategies for responsible drinking, such as counting drinks and spacing them apart.

Lead study author Brian Suffoletto, MD, of the University of Pittsburgh says the text messaging incorporated self-monitoring of drinking behavior and the setting of short-term goals — two longtime traditional alcohol counseling techniques — but could have actually improved on those traditional methods. The anonymity of text messaging may have even encouraged participants to be more honest.

Researchers think similar text-message programs could also be used to successfully encourage people to eat better, exercise more, and generally adopt and maintain healthier lifestyles.

Dr. Suffoletto calls it “participatory health,” adding, “In traditional health models, patients have been in the passenger seats in healthcare. Now… they become drivers of their own health improvement. We really think this innovation is an example of not just assisting, but engaging in self-management.”


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