Negotiating the ‘grey area between normal social drinking and being a smelly tramp’: a qualitative study of people searching for help online to reduce their drinking

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Introduction and aims

Delivering brief interventions for hazardous and harmful drinking on the Internet may broaden the availability of services and overcome some barriers to accessing help in person. The Down Your Drink (DYD) website, an extended brief intervention, attracted a large number of people looking to reduce their drinking. The aim was to explore the experiences of this e-help seeking population.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants in the DYD trial – an online trial of the effectiveness of DYD compared with an information-only website. Interviewees were asked how they came across the DYD website. Interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analysed by a multidisciplinary team using detailed thematic analysis.


Eighteen participants were interviewed. Most interviewees perceived their drinking to be a problem, which led them to search the Internet and register for the DYD trial in order to gain access to an intervention to help them reduce their drinking. The type of help required varied from information on the harms of drinking to help with a recognized problem. The privacy of the Internet was perceived as important when searching for help with drinking, as this avoids the stigma and embarrassment associated with help seeking in person. Almost all interviewees perceived a lack of services both online and offline for people wanting to moderate their drinking.


There is a perceived gap in services for hazardous and harmful drinkers wanting to reduce their drinking which could be addressed using online interventions.

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