Introduction and aims: Remote delivery of interventions is needed to address large numbers of people with alcohol use disorders who are spread over large areas. Previous correspondence trials typically examined its effects as stand-alone treatment. This study aimed to test whether adding postal treatment to general practitioner (GP) support would lower alcohol use more than GP intervention alone.
Design and methods: A single-blind, randomised controlled trial with a crossover design was conducted over 12 months on 204 people with alcohol use disorders. Participants in an immediate correspondence condition received treatment over the first 3 months; those receiving delayed treatment received it in months 3-6.
Results: Few participants were referred from GPs, and little intervention was offered by them. At 3 months, 78% of participants remained in the study. Those in immediate treatment showed greater reductions in alcohol per week, drinking days, anxiety, depression and distress than those in the delayed condition. However, post-treatment and follow-up outcomes still showed elevated alcohol use, depression, anxiety and distress. Greater baseline anxiety predicted better alcohol outcomes, although more mental distress at baseline predicted dropout.
Discussion and conclusions: The study gave consistent results with those from previous research on correspondence treatments, and showed that high levels of participant engagement over 3 months can be obtained. Substantial reductions in alcohol use are seen, with indications that they are well maintained. However, many participants continue to show high-risk alcohol use and psychological distress.