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A study suggests text messaging can reduce teen alcoholism

Text messages have become a popular form of communication amongst young people. In fact, text messaging is one of the most common ways they stay in touch with each other, and even a “language” of abbreviations has evolved from people rapidly typing messages to each other. Although text messages can be lighthearted, people also break off romantic relationships and communicate more serious news to each other.

Unhampered by having to carry on a conversation in real-time, people can ponder and rewrite their text messages, and they have become a vehicle for people to stay in contact with small notes rather than having to indulge in small talk. A somewhat surprising new use of text messages comes from a study that concludes that text messages can help decrease alcoholism in young people, particularly binge drinkers. Binge drinking is a very dangerous habit and can lead to:

  • Drunk driving
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Reckless behavior
  • Liver disease
  • Death due to alcohol poisoning

Text Messages Raise Accountability

A study was conducted where a third of the people got text messages asking them questions about their drinking habits and then responded. One-third of the people got no text messages at all and one-third received questions via text message but no responses. The people questioned in the study were all classified as chronic drinkers. The results were pretty astonishing, because the people who received text messages and feedback reduced their daily intake of alcohol by thirty-one percent.

With all the expensive programs and treatments that exist, the fact that text messages were able to have this effect is pretty impressive. What the text messages were able to do was hold a person accountable in a simple and efficient way, that made them have to reflect on a regular basis what lifestyle choices they were making, and the feedback also seemed a key factor, because it forced the individual to reconsider drinking.

Effective But Not Overbearing

Part of the reason that text messages may have been so effective is due to how unobtrusive they are. People don’t have to drive to meetings, have emotional discussions with people close to them, or have to publicly discuss their issues. Instead, they can have a silent and personal conversation through text messages that force them to think about their drinking habits, and to exhibit control over their thoughts and actions. Text messages seemed to take people out of acting out in self-destructive ways, because they think that no one is watching.

Easy To Implement

Another benefit of text messages is that they are extremely easy to implement. Young people, in particular, carry their smartphones with them everywhere, and they are like a companion who will always be accessible. The text messages also don’t pass judgment on someone like a family member or friend might even with good intentions.

Most people who have drinking problems will shut down or become defensive when accused by a loved one of having a drinking problem. There is an emotional dynamic if a friend of family member is trying to keep tabs on someone’s drinking. But text messages and feedback from an independent third party can help hold someone accountable without the extra emotional baggage.

Using Technology For Social Change

Ultimately what this study shows is that over time technology can be used for significant social change when implemented properly. Technology can be used to reduce binge drinking, and that may be only the beginning of the way technology can help people.

The advantages of technology, especially technology associated with smartphones, is that it’s easily accessible and present in someone’s life in a way that another person can’t be. People are developing relationships with their smartphones, and using it in all their waking hours to communicate with others via text message or social media. And now this technology can be used to improve the quality of someone’s life.

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