What is this research about?
Alcohol use among adolescents is a public health priority warranting prevention approaches. Youth who begin using and misusing alcohol are more likely to have negative long-term outcomes, such as injuries, lower achievement in life or education, and development of an alcohol use disorder (i.e., addiction).
There is a need to determine the best, most effective ways to help adolescents stay healthy and avoid problems that can come from early alcohol misuse. Researchers have developed promising and effective programs delivered to adolescents as part of health care that have helped to reduce alcohol misuse; however, programs that can be easily implemented for widespread use are needed.
Technology-based programs are critical because they limit clinical workload, require minimal to no staff training, can be delivered remotely, and can be standardized, meaning that all adolescents who receive an intervention receive the gold standard quality of care.
This study is comparing two combinations (i.e., packages) of programs for adolescents, with the addition of an app for parents or caregivers (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s “Talk. They Hear You.”):
#1: a brief ~35-minute interactive computer program made available online (UConnect) + a free parent/caregiver app
#2: a brief ~35-minute interactive computer program made available online (UConnect)+ a free parent/caregiver app + 8-weeks of supportive text messages for adolescents
Who can this research help?
This research can help adolescents avoid problems from early alcohol misuse, enhancing short- and long-term health outcomes. This research can also help health systems decide which programs to offer their adolescent patients/families to help prevent problems associated with adolescent alcohol misuse.
What is the research team doing?
The research team has developed programs over several years with refinement and stakeholder input from adolescents and young adults at all stages. The team will continue to engage with youth, parent/caregiver, and healthcare stakeholders in this current trial, including obtaining critical feedback to guide implementation in healthcare settings. The team is working with a large health care system to identify 12 to 17 year-olds who may be at risk for negative alcohol outcomes based on data in their electronic health record (EHR). Proactive outreach methods will be used to recruit 1,400 adolescents, who will be assigned, by chance, to receive either package #1 or #2.
The team is following up with patients every 3 months over a 12-month period to see if their alcohol use changes. The team is also tracking other patient-reported outcomes, including use/misuse of other substances, alcohol-related injuries, non-fatal overdose, academic performance, etc. Parents/Caregivers will also be surveyed and asked to report on their use of the parent/caregiver app.
Research Methods at-a-Glance
- Randomized controlled trial (comparative efficacy)
- Adolescents ages 12 to 17 who receive primary care in a health system are at risk for negative alcohol-related outcomes
- A brief ~35-minute interactive computer program based in Motivational Interviewing (called UConnect) + a free parent/caregiver app (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’ “Talk. They Hear You.” App)
- UConnect + “Talk. They Hear You.” App + 8-weeks of supportive text messages sent to adolescents to enhance the UConnect program.
- Primary: change in alcohol consumption
- Secondary: changes in alcohol consequences, other drug use (illicit use and prescription drug misuse, drug consequences), impaired driving, alcohol-related injury (including non-fatal overdose experiences), and depressive symptoms
- 12-month follow-up for primary outcomes