The national alcohol helpline in Sweden: an evaluation of its first yearAugust 14, 2014
Telephone helplines are easily available and can offer anonymity. Alcohol helplines may be a potential gateway to a more advanced support protocol, and they may function as a primary support option for some. However, although telephone helplines (quitlines) make up an established evidence-based support arena for smoking cessation, few studies have described such telephone-based alcohol counseling.
This study describes the basic characteristics of callers (n = 480) to the Swedish Alcohol Helpline during its first year of operation, and assesses aspects of change in alcohol behavior in a selected cohort of clients (n = 40) willing to abstain from anonymity and enter a proactive support protocol.
During the study period, 50% of callers called for consultation regarding their own alcohol use (clients), a third called about relatives with alcohol problems, and the others called for information. The clients’ average age was 49 years, and half were females. The clients’ average AUDIT score at baseline was 21 (std. dev. =7.2). Approximately a quarter had scores indicating hazardous alcohol use at baseline, while the others had higher scores. In a follow-up pilot study, the average AUDIT score had decreased from 21 to 14. While clients reporting more severe alcohol use showed a significant decrease at follow-up, hazardous users exhibited no change during the study period.
The study indicates that telephone helplines addressing the general public can be a primary-care option to reduce risky alcohol use. A randomized controlled study is needed to control for the effect of spontaneous recovery.