An online intervention for problematic alcohol use in young people with depression

March 2017
Deady, M., Mills, K. L., Teesson, M., & Kay-Lambkin, F. (2016). An online intervention for co-occurring depression and problematic alcohol use in young people: Primary outcomes from a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 18(3). doi: 10.2196/jmir.5178. Link

Depression and problematic alcohol use represent two of the major causes of disease burden in young adults. These conditions frequently co-occur and this is associated with increased harm and poorer outcomes than either disorder in isolation. Integrated treatments have been shown to be effective; however, there remains a significant gap between those in need of treatment and those receiving it. The increased availability of eHealth programs presents a unique opportunity to treat these conditions.

The DEAL Project is an automated Web-based self-help intervention for co-occurring depressive symptoms and problematic alcohol use in young people.

To evaluate the effectiveness of DEAL 104 young people (aged 18 to 25 years) with moderate depression symptoms and drinking at hazardous levels were randomly allocated to either  DEAL Project or a web-based attention-control condition (HealthWatch). The trial consisted of a 4-week intervention phase with follow-up assessment at posttreatment and at 3 and 6 months postbaseline.

Results: The DEAL Project was associated with statistically significant improvement in depression symptom severity and reductions in alcohol use quantity) and frequency in the short term compared to the control group. At 6-month follow-up, the improvements in the intervention group were maintained; however, the differences between the intervention and control groups were no longer statistically significant.

Overall, the DEAL Project was associated with more rapid improvement in both depression symptoms and alcohol use outcomes in young people with these co-occurring conditions relative to an attention-control condition. However, long-term outcomes are less clear.