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Young adults who sent and received weekly text messages that tracked their alcohol consumption drank less after 12 weeks, according to a new study.

The study included 45 heavy drinkers, ages 18 to 24, who were identified as hazardous drinkers after they ended up in the emergency room. They were divided into three groups. One group sent and received weekly text messages about their drinking; a second group sent but didn’t receive texts, and a third group sent no alcohol-related texts. The young adults in the second and third group did not decrease their drinking as much as the first group, the researchers found.

They note that although the study is small, it points to a promising strategy for reducing problem drinking, CNN reports.

The participants in the first group sent weekly texts totaling up how much they drank. Depending on how much alcohol they consumed, they received automatic replies that either congratulated them on their efforts to cut down, or urged them to decrease the amount they drank the following week, with tips on strategies for doing so. In the last month of the study, participants in this group said they drank heavily on 3.4 fewer days than they had in the month before the study began. When they did drink, they had an average of two fewer drinks.

“Given that mobile phones are essentially ubiquitous among young adults, and texting in particular is a heavily used communication tool, we sought to build and test an automated TM [text messaging] system that could conduct a health dialogue with young adults after discharge,” lead researcher Brian Suffoletto, MD, of the University of Pittsburgh, said in a news release. “We believe that our study is the first to test a TM-based behavioral intervention to reduce alcohol consumption.”

The results are published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

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