Using E-Mail Boosters to Maintain Change After Brief Alcohol Interventions for Mandated College Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial

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Objective: Brief motivational interventions (BMIs) reduce drinking in the short term, but these initial effects often decay. We tested the hypothesis that theory-based e-mail boosters would promote maintenance of change after a BMI. Method: Participants were students (N = 568; 72% male) who violated campus alcohol policy and were mandated to participate in an alcohol-risk-reduction program. Participants provided baseline data, received a BMI, and then completed a 1-month post-BMI survey. Next, they were randomized to receive 12 booster e-mails that contained either (a) alcohol norms or (b) structurally equivalent general health information (control). Alcohol consumption and alcohol-related consequences were assessed at baseline, 1, 3, 5, 8, and 12 months. Results: As expected, we observed significant reductions in both consumption and consequences after the BMI (ps < .01), and groups were equivalent at baseline and at 1-month post-BMI, prior to randomization (ps > .05). Latent growth curve models revealed no condition effects on changes in the latent consumption variable from 1- to 12-month follow-ups (b = .01, SE = .01, p > .05). Unexpectedly, a main effect of the condition emerged for self-reported consequences (b = .03, SE = .01, p = .01); we observed more consequences after boosters containing alcohol norms than general health information. Outcomes were not moderated by sex, consumption at baseline or 1 month, or e-mail exposure, and there was no mediation by descriptive norms, injunctive norms, or peer communication. Conclusions: Contrary to predictions, e-mail boosters with corrective norms content did not improve outcomes after a BMI.

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