Electronic Interventions for Alcohol Misuse and Alcohol Use Disorders: A Systematic Review

Ann Intern Med. 2015 Aug 4;163(3):205-14. doi: 10.7326/M15-0285.


Background: The use of electronic interventions (e-interventions) may improve treatment of alcohol misuse.

Purpose: To characterize treatment intensity and systematically review the evidence for efficacy of e-interventions, relative to controls, for reducing alcohol consumption and alcohol-related impairment in adults and college students.

Data sources: MEDLINE (via PubMed) from January 2000 to March 2015 and the Cochrane Library, EMBASE, and PsycINFO from January 2000 to August 2014.

Study selection: English-language, randomized, controlled trials that involved at least 50 adults who misused alcohol; compared an e-intervention group with a control group; and reported outcomes at 6 months or longer.

Data extraction: Two reviewers abstracted data and independently rated trial quality and strength of evidence.

Data synthesis: In 28 unique trials, the modal e-intervention was brief feedback on alcohol consumption. Available data suggested a small reduction in consumption (approximately 1 drink per week) in adults and college students at 6 months but not at 12 months. There was no statistically significant effect on meeting drinking limit guidelines in adults or on binge-drinking episodes or social consequences of alcohol in college students.

Limitations: E-interventions that ranged in intensity were combined in analyses. Quantitative results do not apply to short-term outcomes or alcohol use disorders.

Conclusion: Evidence suggests that low-intensity e-inter ventions produce small reductions in alcohol consumption at 6 months, but there is little evidence for longer-term, clinically significant effects, such as meeting drinking limits. Future e-interventions could provide more intensive treatment and possibly human support to assist persons in meeting recommended drinking limits.

Primary funding source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Binge Drinking / prevention & control*
  • Counseling / methods
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Students
  • Young Adult