Background: Mid to late adolescence is characterised by a vulnerability to problematic substance use since the consumption of alcohol and illicit drugs is frequently initiated and increased in this life period. While the detrimental long- and short-term effects of problematic consumption patterns in adolescence pose a major public health concern, current prevention programs targeting alcohol- and other substance-using adolescents are scarce. The study described in this protocol will test the effectiveness of a web-based brief intervention aimed at reducing problematic alcohol use and promoting abstinence from illegal drugs in adolescents with risky substance use aged 16 to 18 years old in four EU-countries.
Methods/design: To determine the effectiveness of our web-BI, we apply a two-arm randomized controlled trial (RCT) study design, with baseline assessment at study entry and a three month follow-up assessment. Adolescents aged 16 to 18 years from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Sweden will be randomly assigned to either the fully electronically delivered brief intervention group (N = 400) or an assessment only control group (N = 400) depending on their screening for risky substance use (using the CRAFFT). Recruitment, informed consent, randomization, intervention and follow-up will be implemented online. Primary outcomes are reductions in frequency and quantity of use of alcohol and drugs other than alcohol over a 30 day period, as well as consumption per typical occasion. Secondary outcomes concern changes in substance use related cognitions including the constructs of the Theory of Planned Behaviour, implementation intentions, and stages of change. Moreover the study addresses a number of moderator variables, including age of first use, general psychopathology and quality of parent-child relationship.
Discussion: The trial is expected to contribute to the growing literature on theory- and web-based brief interventions for adolescents. We will explore the potential of using web-based technologies as means of delivering preventive interventions. In doing so we are among the first to target the relevant group of young poly-drug users in Europe.
Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN95538913.