170,000 people screened and counting: how online alcohol interventions are growing in popularity
Online alcohol interventions are on the rise – and their potential impact is huge. DontBottleItUp is an innovative alcohol screening tool that proves just that. With 170,000 people screened to date, it is estimated to have brought several million pounds of savings to the wider health and care economy, and motivated over 10,000 people to reduce their drinking to within Lower Risk levels.
DontBottleItUp is delivered by the drugs and alcohol support charity Blenheim. It allows people to find out how risky their drinking is with a two-minute Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), the World Health Organisation’s gold-standard alcohol screening tool.
After screening themselves, people can then access personalised advice online, make a plan for cutting down and choose to book a DrinkCoach Skype appointment, a service allowing them to speak with an alcohol specialist online. In areas where DontBottleItUp is commissioned, residents can request a follow-up phone call or email from an alcohol specialist worker (to see how they are getting on and help them plan their next steps) and can also find their local alcohol service or clinic by entering their postcode.
DontBottleItUp is currently commissioned in eleven local authorities – Camden, Croydon, Enfield, Essex, Hampshire, Haringey, Islington, Medway, Newham, Surrey, and West Sussex – and will be going live in another London borough later this month. DontBottleItUp not only identifies risky drinkers, but also serves as a training tool for health and care staff in how AUDIT works, and uses clear referral pathways to work seamlessly with existing services in commissioning areas. Commissioners also receive detailed monthly reports about alcohol use in their areas.
DontBottleItUp’s online delivery means that it has an impressive reach for a low relative cost, and facilitates the provision of IBA to otherwise hard-to-reach groups. For instance, only 6% of dependent drinkers currently access alcohol services. DontBottleItUp provides access to this underrepresented cohort by allowing people to assess their own drinking in a safe environment.
What DontBottleItUp has achieved
An impressive 172,204 people have now screened themselves on DontBottleItUp since it was first launched in 2012.
Last year (2017-18), 59,366 people screened themselves on DontBottleItUp, of whom:
- 35% were High Risk/possibly dependent drinkers
- 16% were Higher Risk
- 35% were Increasing Risk
- 14% were Lower Risk
Research shows that one in eight Increasing and Higher Risk drinkers who are screened and receive brief advice will reduce to within Lower Risk levels (Moyer et al. 2012). Based on this, we estimate that DontBottleItUp has motivated 3,811 Increasing and Higher Risk Drinkers to reduce to Lower Risk levels in in the last year alone, and 11,350 since it launched.
Research by Public Health England also suggests that for every Increasing or Higher Risk drinker who receives Identification and Brief Advice (IBA), there is a £27 return to the wider health and care economy. Based on this, we estimate that these online interventions resulted in wider healthcare savings of over £823,000 in 2017-18, and over £2,450,000 since DontBottleItUp launched.
With the number of online alcohol screenings increasing year on year, we at Blenheim are excited to continue reaching more risky drinkers with practical, high-quality advice, intervention and signposting into services through DontBottleItUp – and at the rate things are going, it shouldn’t be too long before we see our 300,000th visitor.