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Substance Abuse: A comparison between telehealth and face-to-face delivery of a brief alcohol intervention for college students

Alcohol misuse and binge drinking habits remain common among college students. These habits can lead to serious consequences such as health risks, accidental injury or death, and instances of drunk driving. Effective interventions have been created such as The Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (Basics). However, students and young adults that live in rural areas or may not have access to mental health services are not receiving these types of interventions. This study looks at tele-communication as a possible expansion that could be available in rural areas and small colleges for clinicians to provide services.

To complete the study, 51 college students were recruited who had engaged in binge drinking over the past two weeks. They were first asked questions about demographics, internet use, and substance use. They then participated in two interventional sessions. The participants were randomly assigned to either receive a face-to-face or telehealth intervention. The researchers followed up with the participants for a period of three months after the two interventional sessions.

The results of the study showed that the BASICS intervention was also effective when delivered to the students via telehealth. They found that the participants receiving the intervention through telecommunications were still able to effectively interact with the clinician. This study provides important insight about the possible expansion of telehealth around the country to provide brief interventions to college students at risk for misusing alcohol and other substances that may not otherwise have access to a service such as this. It also provides positive results to potentially offer mental health services in general through this type of telecommunications to those in rural areas.

Take Away: Alcohol misuse and binge drinking habits are common in college students. While brief interventions are generally provided at bigger universities, rural areas and smaller colleges do not have as much access to these types of services. This study looks at telecommunication as a possible way to provide interventions to college students who would not otherwise have access. They recruited 51 participants who underwent two interventional sessions either in person or a telehealth intervention. They found the intervention provided through telecommunication was as effective as when it was provided face-to-face. This finding is important in expanding interventional services to those in rural areas who will otherwise not have access.  It is also an important finding when considering the opportunity to provide mental health services to young adults in rural areas.

King, S. C., Richner, K. A., Tuliao, A. P., Kennedy, J. L., & Mcchargue, D. E. (2019). A comparison between telehealth and face-to-face delivery of a brief alcohol intervention for college students. Substance Abuse, 1–9. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2019.1675116

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