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Counseling Does Little to Deter Youth Drinking, Review Finds

August 22, 2014

FRIDAY, Aug. 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Counseling may do little to help young people with drinking problems, a large-scale review finds.

Researchers analyzed 66 studies that included nearly 18,000 people 25 and younger, many of whom were at high risk for drinking problems. Participants in 49 studies attended a single one-on-one counseling session, while participants in the rest of the studies attended group sessions or a mix of group and individual sessions.

A counseling technique called motivational interviewing was used in the studies. This technique was developed in the 1980s and is one of the methods used to help people with drinking problems.

On average, people who had counseling consumed about 1.5 fewer drinks per week than those who had no counseling (12.2 vs. 13.7 drinks), had slightly fewer drinking days per week (2.57 vs. 2.74 days), and their maximum blood alcohol levels fell from 0.144 percent vs. 0.129 percent. However, their average blood alcohol levels did not change.

Counseling also did not reduce alcohol-related problems, binge drinking, drunk driving and other risky alcohol-related behaviors, according to the study published Aug. 21 in The Cochrane Library.

“The results suggest that for young people who misuse alcohol there is no substantial, meaningful benefit of motivational interviewing,” lead researcher David Foxcroft, from the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom, said in a journal news release.

The studies included a wide range of people, including university students, military recruits, prisoners, and those using health care, youth and job centers.

“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,” Foxcroft said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism explains how much alcohol is too much.


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