Online alcohol intervention for Limerick third level students

AN online alcohol intervention programme has been launched in Limerick to help third-level students reflect on their drinking behaviour.

The Electronic Personal Use Barometer, e-PUB, will be implemented as part of a joint initiative between Mary Immaculate College (MIC), Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT), University of Limerick (UL) and the Mid-West Third Level Drug and Alcohol Awareness Project.

The barometer is a brief online self-assessment programme and its implementation in Limerick is funded by the Mid-West Regional Drugs & Alcohol Forum (MWRDAF) through Pobal Dormant Accounts to address alcohol abuse in third level institutions.

“This is an exciting and innovative project which has brought together the three main third level institutions in the City with a view to encouraging participants to examine their relationship with alcohol,” explained MWRDAF coordinator Gearoid Prendergast at the Limerick launch of the e-PUB initiative.

An evidence-based, online intervention and personalised feedback tool, it was developed by counsellors and psychologists at San Diego State University, and is currently in use at more than 550 campuses in the United States, Canada, Australia and Ireland.

It encourages participants to examine their individual drinking patterns, their personal and family risk factors and the health and personal consequences of their behaviours. The user is then given personalised feedback to help them adapt and, if necessary, to reduce their consumption patterns.

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The programme is self-guided, and requires no face-to-face contact time with a counsellor or administrator. As it is offered online, the e-PUB can provide quick, confidential feedback in multiple settings. This also allows a student to complete a personal ‘check-up’ on multiple occasions to track changes in use and risk behaviour.

e-PUB has already been implemented with great success in a number of other Irish Third Level institutions, including UCC and NUIG.

Speaking on behalf of the MIC, UL and LIT student unions, Caoimhe Guinnane said she hoped the e-PUB programme would help students become more aware of their alcohol consumption.

“This programme will be a tool to anonymously encourage students to seek help via the information of local services provided if necessary,” the MIC student union vice-president added.

According to recent figures, 2.48 million people in Ireland drink with at least 75 per cent of all alcohol consumed as part of a binge drinking session. Those aged 18-24 years are most likely to have a harmful drinking pattern.

Elaine Griffin, project worker with the Mid West Third Level Drug and Alcohol Prevention Initiative, believes the e-PUB programme will be complemented in the three Limerick institutions with a sustained awareness campaign using social media and traditional communication channels, in addition to environmental strategies that are relevant to each individual institution.

by Alan Jacques