Screening and brief interventions for hazardous and harmful alcohol use among university students in South Africa: results from a randomized controlled trial
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The aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness of Screening and Brief Intervention (SBI) for alcohol problems among university students in South Africa. The study design for this efficacy study is a randomized controlled trial with 6- and 12-month follow-ups to examine the effects of a brief alcohol intervention to reduce alcohol use by hazardous and harmful drinkers in a university setting. The unit of randomization is the individual university student identified as a hazardous or harmful drinker attending public recruitment venues in a university campus. University students were screened for alcohol problems, and those identified as hazardous or harmful drinkers were randomized into an experimental or control group. The experimental group received one brief counseling session on alcohol risk reduction, while the control group received a health education leaflet. Results indicate that of the 722 screened for alcohol and who agreed to participate in the trial 152 (21.1%) tested positive for the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT) (score 8 or more). Among the 147 (96.7%) university students who also attended the 12-month follow-up session, the intervention effect on the AUDIT score was -1.5, which was statistically significant (P = 0.009). Further, the depression scores marginally significantly decreased over time across treatment groups, while other substance use (tobacco and cannabis use), self-rated health status and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) scores did not change over time across treatment groups. The study provides evidence of effective brief intervention by assistant nurses with hazardous and harmful drinkers in a university setting in South Africa. The short duration of the brief intervention makes it a realistic candidate for use in a university setting.