Self-texting reinforces safer drinking message

By Andrew Koubaridis

Text that encourage people to not drink too much could support healthy alcohol consumption. Photo / Thinkstock
Text that encourage people to not drink too much could support healthy alcohol consumption. Photo / Thinkstock

You're in a bar having a few drinks - and then you get a text message from yourself saying it's time to go home.

A University of Auckland researcher is about to begin a full research trial where the participants will get a text message like this, written by themselves, to remind them not to drink too much.

An initial study, called Spillit, showed the concept could work which is why a wider one was now needed, Phd candidate Karen Renner told the Herald.

"The second study showed a reasonable reduction from the number of harms reported by the end of the trial with a reduction in alcohol-related harms from those receiving safe drinking text messages."

There had been a 23 per cent reduction, and a total of 77 participants.

Mrs Renner spent several nights in a hospital emergency ward and saw the damage alcohol was having.

"The logical thing seemed to be that you may decide you're going out for a good time and you might establish you're going to have, say, four drinks. But alcohol does some weird things to your brain - plus you're in a party environment - so you just forget. And the next thing you know you've had too much and your friends are helping you into the emergency department or you're throwing up in the gutter."

Mrs Renner thought she could use text messaging to support healthy alcohol consumption.

"My premise is most of us are reasonably intelligent people. So why don't we tap into that and allow people to create their own messages."

And those messages ranged from the very blunt, "there were a lot of four letter words being used", to more practical ones saying it was time to go home or drink more water.

Others were more inspirational like "you're better than this, take control".

Because participants devised their own messages it made them more diverse and far more direct than Mrs Renner could be. "There's no way I as a researcher could use those words."

Feedback from participants included one man who said: "I have become more conscious of the fact that it is not necessary to consume alcohol to the point of oblivion and am now happy to have three or four drinks even if others go on to have six or seven."

A woman said: "Now more likely to comment on choice of drinks [eg,] if hosts have not offered good non-alcoholic options, or to say 'No thanks, one glass is enough for me'."

Alcohol Watch's Rebecca Williams thought there were positives in the research, but hoped people who were found to be suffering alcohol-related harm were properly managed.

• To sign up for the study, go to www.spillitnz.co.nz (participants must be over 18 and have their own phone).

- NZ Herald

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