Technology-enhanced brief interventions show promise in reducing underage drinking, preventing dating violence perpetration, and decreasing symptoms of depression among people 14 to 20 years old who are seen in the emergency department, according to research published in Pediatrics.

Alcohol screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment is an effective approach for youth, but previous interventions have been limited by a lack of resources and staff. Technology-enhanced brief interventions are easy to implement and have the potential for more efficient resource usage.

Researchers assessed the secondary outcomes of emergency department-based brief interventions on dating violence perpetration and victimization and depression symptoms over 3, 6, and 12 months among 836 participants. Patients in the emergency department who screened positive for risk drinking were randomly assigned to computer brief intervention using U-Connect, therapist brief intervention, or a control group. After a 3-month assessment, participants were randomly assigned the post-emergency department brief intervention or control condition. Regression models examined the longitudinal effects of the alcohol brief intervention on dating violence perpetration and victimization and depression symptoms.

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These data showed that therapist brief intervention significantly reduced dating violence perpetration by 47% up to 12 months and depression by 15% up to 3 months. Computer brief intervention reduced dating violence perpetration by 48% and depression symptoms 6 months postintervention. These results show that technology-enhanced screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment can not only reduce underage drinking but can also reduce dating violence and depression symptoms among adolescents who seek care in the emergency department.

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The limitations of the study include a reliance on self-reported data, and that the data collected from a single-site study may not be generalizable to other patient groups. However, the research shows notable risk reductions associated with underage drinking and the potential for greater implementation of technology-enhanced brief interventions.

“This intervention provides flexibility in the clinical setting, allowing for therapist delivery when staff is available and computer delivery when staff resources are not available,” the researchers wrote.


Ngo QM, Eisman AB, Walton MA, et al. Emergency department alcohol intervention: effects on dating violence and depression [published online June 5, 2018]. Pediatrics. doi:10.1542/peds.2017-3525