Online Program Reaching Out To Young Australians Drinking To Cope With Anxiety


January 05, 2018 20:33:02

As the silly season draws to an end, and for some the hangover sets in, Australian researchers are embarking on what is believed to be a world first.

Experts at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre have developed a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) program for young people whose main reason for drinking is to cope with anxiety, shyness and nervousness.

The free internet-delivered program called INROADS is aimed at 17 to 24-year-olds, and is available discretely in the palms of their hands on their computer, phone or tablet.

Senior Research Fellow Dr Lexine Stapinski said the Australian trial was informed by a recent UK study of more than 2,000 young people which found anxiety was a common reason for excessive alcohol consumption.

But she said less than one in four sought professional help for their mental health.

“Drinking to cope with anxiety or worry is associated with greater risk of developing problem drinking. So if you are a young person and you’re drinking to cope, you’re much more likely to develop problems,” Dr Stapinksi said.

“It’s things like general worries, general stress but also nervousness, it could be about social situations, talking to people and alcohol is that quick fix that helps them feel immediately better but in the long term it’s actually making anxiety worse.

“Anxiety and alcohol will tend to keep feeding themselves in vicious cycle.”

Participants of the pilot program gain access to five online modules, complete with contemporary graphics and “how-to” videos to help manage their anxiety and alcohol use.

Access to a trained psychologist by email, text chat or phone is also provided.

“Research tells us that young people like internet-delivered treatment, they like the convenience, they like the lack of stigma, it’s accessible to people all over Australia so we’re hoping for fantastic take up rates,” Dr Stapinski said.

Despite the push for early intervention, in general, young Australians continue to drink less.

The most recent statistics from the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey show fewer people aged 12 to 17 drank alcohol in 2016 with the proportion abstaining from alcohol significantly increasing from 72 per cent in 2013 to 82 per cent in 2016.

In addition, 14 to 24-year-olds continued to delay starting drinking, with the age they first tried alcohol increasing from 14 in 1998 to 16 in 2016.

First posted

January 05, 2018 20:31:03

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