Young people with drinking problems may not benefit as much from counseling as previously thought, according to the findings of a new study.
A team of researchers from Oxford Brookes University evaluated over 66 trials that included about 17,900 young people aged 25 years and below. Most of them were classified as at high risk for alcohol-related problems. Over the course of 49 trials, participants attended a single individual session. In other trials, the participants attended multiple group sessions for four months. Researchers noted the participants who underwent counseling had about 1 and a half fewer drinks per week.
There was no significant difference between the number of days individuals who received counseling drank compared to those that didn't. Those that received counseling drank 2.57 days a week compared to 2.74 days a week among those that didn't receive counseling.
"The results suggest that for young people who misuse alcohol there is no substantial, meaningful benefit of motivational interviewing," said lead researcher David Foxcroft, in a press statement. "The effects we saw were probably too small to be of relevance to policy or practice." There may be certain groups of young adults for whom motivational interviewing is more successful in preventing alcohol-related problems. But we need to see larger trials in these groups to be able to make any firm conclusions."
According to statistics released by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, around 320,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 29 die as a result of alcohol misuse. Most of these deaths are due to accidents including drinking and driving, suicide due to depression from alcohol abuse and accidental drowning under the influence of alcohol.
Alcohol abuse counseling is not the only thing that may not be completely beneficial for young adults. Earlier this month, two separate studies found that such interventions may not be effective in helping young adults with their drug problems.
In one study, researchers from Boston University divided more than 500 people into three groups. (All had tested positive in verbal drug screenings at a primary care clinic.) Each member of the first two groups got a different type of brief counseling, while those in the third group received none. When the researchers followed up six months later, participants who got counseling weren't any better off than those who didn't.
A second JAMA study produced similar results: Patients who got a brief counseling session plus a short phone call two weeks later didn't reduce their drug use any more than those who didn't get any counseling. The findings did indicate that the patients with the most severe problems who got brief counseling were more likely to seek out specialty care later.
Findings were published online in the journal The Cochrane Library.