James is a PhD student at London South Bank University researching the effect of problem framing (i.e. beliefs about alcohol problems) on harmful drinker’s self-appraisal of their drinking. He is editor of Alcohol Policy UK (www.alcoholpolicy.net), a blog to keep the alcohol field updated with related news and activity. He is also Director of the Alcohol Academy, a social enterprise set up to promote skills and learning development in the alcohol field, and is also a keen brief intervention skills trainer. James has been involved in a number of alcohol policy and advisory groups for the Department of Health and other bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO). He is also regular speaker for alcohol events and media features and is Chair of a charity focussing on the development of ideas in alcohol treatment and interventions (www.ndsag.org).
Continuum beliefs increase problem recognition among harmful drinkers without addiction experience
Aims: Low problem recognition may be an important barrier to opportunities for self-change or help-seeking in harmful drinkers. Little is known about how the beliefs harmful drinkers hold about the nature and causes of alcohol problems affect problem recognition and subsequent behaviour change processes. This study sought to test the effect of an experimental manipulation on beliefs about alcohol problems on problem recognition.
Methods: Participants (n=579) recruited online were randomised to one of 3 conditions designed to promote beliefs according to (a) a continuum model of alcohol problems, (b) a binary disease model, or (c) a control condition. Participants completed measures of alcohol problem beliefs, problem recognition and other indices including the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT), addiction beliefs, addiction experience and demographics.
Results: Results showed that harmful drinkers without addiction experience exposed to the continuum condition had significantly higher problem recognition than those in binary or control conditions.
Conclusions: Continuum beliefs appear to offer self-evaluative benefits for harmful drinkers with low alcohol problem recognition, thus potentially facilitating help-seeking or self-change regarding alcohol use. Further research to understand the mechanisms by which continuum beliefs may promote more accurate drinking self-evaluation and its potential for behaviour change is warranted. The role of continuum beliefs may have important consequences for alcohol-related messaging and interventions seeking to promote self-change or help-seeking.