Study Protocol for a Web-Based Personalized Normative Feedback Alcohol Intervention for Young Adult Veterans

Published in: Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, v. 11, no. 1, Mar. 2016, p. 1-15

by Eric R. Pedersen, Grant N. Marshall, Terry L. Schell

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BACKGROUND: Young adult veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan represent a population at-risk for heavy and problematic alcohol use. Unfortunately, few seek treatment for alcohol concerns and those that do seek care may drop out from lengthy multicomponent treatments. Additionally, veterans who live in rural areas and those who are not engaged in the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System are often overlooked, difficult to engage in treatment, and may not be actively seeking treatment for heavy patterns of use that may develop into an alcohol use disorder. The objective of this proposed randomized controlled trial is to develop and pilot test a brief, stand-alone Internet-based alcohol intervention with young adult veterans to help them reduce their drinking and prevent the development of problematic alcohol use. METHODS/DESIGN: Recruitment and intervention is delivered entirely over the Internet to address barriers to seeking care among this at-risk group. The online intervention consists of an assessment followed by a single module of personalized normative feedback (PNF), which provides individuals with accurate information to reduce misperceptions regarding the frequency and acceptability of risky peer behavior. PNF has established efficacy as included within multicomponent interventions targeting military populations or as a stand-alone intervention with young adult college students, but has not yet been empirically supported for the at-risk veteran population. This paper describes the development of the PNF intervention content and details the protocol for the intervention study, which will utilize a sample of 600 young adult veterans to examine the efficacy of the brief PNF intervention targeted toward reducing perceived norms, intentions to drink, actual drinking behavior, and consequences. Specific subpopulations of this veteran population, including those with mental health concerns and those differentiated by level of drinking problems, reasons for drinking, and connection to peers, will be examined to support generalizability of the intervention. DISCUSSION: This intervention has the potential to improve veteran health care by utilizing a novel approach to increase access to care, assist with drinking reductions, and prevent alcohol-related problems.

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