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Pragmatic randomized controlled trial of providing access to a brief personalized alcohol feedback intervention in university students

John A Cunningham12*, Christian S Hendershot12, Michelle Murphy12 and Clayton Neighbors3

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 33 Russell St, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

2 University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

3 University of Houston, Houston, TX, USA

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Addiction Science & Clinical Practice 2012, 7:21  doi:10.1186/1940-0640-7-21

Published: 10 October 2012



There is a growing body of evidence indicating that web-based personalized feedback interventions can reduce the amount of alcohol consumed in problem drinking college students. This study sought to evaluate whether providing voluntary access to such an intervention would have an impact on drinking.


College students responded to an email inviting them to participate in a short drinking survey. Those meeting criteria for risky drinking (and agreeing to participate in a follow-up) were randomized to an intervention condition where they were offered to participate in a web-based personalized feedback intervention or to a control condition (intervention not offered). Participants were followed-up at six weeks.


A total of 425 participants were randomized to condition and 68% (n = 290) completed the six-week follow-up. No significant difference in drinking between conditions was observed.


Web-based personalized feedback interventions that are offered to students on a voluntary basis may not have a measurable impact on problem drinking.

Trial Registration NCT01521078

Randomized controlled trial; Problem drinking; Alcohol abuse; College; University; Internet-based intervention; eHealth; Brief intervention