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WVU launches text service to reinforce safe choices, curb binge drinking

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Cell phone illustration taken Wednesday, March 17, 2021. (WVU Photo Illustration/Jennifer Shephard)

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Students at West Virginia University can now receive adaptive text messages encouraging them to make safer choices about alcohol use by questioning how likely they are to have more than four drinks at any single occasion, how they are prepared to handle peer pressure and if they are willing to set a goal to drink less.

WELLWVU and WVU Athletics have partnered to offer the CaringTXT program, an automated system that sends queries and support messages through phone short-message system to young adults who drink and enroll in this service.

Participants in this anonymous 12-week SMS intervention program receive a check-in message every Friday asking them about their future plans to drink and willingness to use less alcohol followed by supportive messages and information about the benefits of low-risk drinking. 

On Sundays, a follow-up text message is sent to assess their behavior. 

"We're happy to bring CaringTXT to WVU. It's a simple tool for WVU students who drink alcohol to help them plan for safer, healthier outcomes and to reflect on their choices,” said Wesley Thomas, health education specialist with WELLWVU. “It's a good option for students who may appreciate a little help with moderating their drinking or who would like to drink less often.”

The SMS program is free to all WVU students, and by entering specific keywords, the University can track the level of participation for various student groups, such as student-athletes, fraternity and sorority members, students living in the residence halls and students enrolled in the Carruth Center’s Student Assistance Program

“We are pleased to partner with WellWVU and the campus community in the rollout of CaringTXT,” said Steve Uryasz, executive senior associate athletic director, WVU Athletics. “Students and student-athletes alike will benefit from having access to the platform. Any technology that can assist students with making better decisions as it relates to drinking and specifically binge drinking is a game changer.” 

According to a recent survey of WVU students, approximately 25 percent of students who drink have engaged in some form of public misconduct or experienced some kind of serious personal problem related to drinking at least once in the past year. 

“We hope to reduce that number and prevent those negative outcomes,” Thomas said.

Small clinical trials have found that students enrolled in the CaringTXT program drink two fewer drinks per occasion, maintain safer drinking for up to six months after completing the program and 15 percent stop drinking completely.

“By providing support outside of an academic or professional setting, we can reach students in their natural social environments when peer influence and other factors may not be helping a student to prioritize their safety and wellbeing. Consequently, CaringTXT has been developed to augment individual counseling and to broaden the reach of ongoing efforts toward alcohol safety on campus,” Thomas added.



CONTACT: Wesley Thomas
Health Education Specialist

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